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Osteopenia: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

Osteopenia– This is a pathological condition of the bones in which there is depreciation of bone density signifying that the bones are getting weaker. Osteopenia gradually progresses to osteoporosis if not treated appropriately.


What Is Osteopenia?

Osteopenia is a medical condition in which the bone density becomes lower than normal in the body, but it is not low enough to be classified as another condition called Osteoporosis.1 Bone density is a way of measuring the strength of the bone. A reduced bone density signifies that the bones are brittle and soft and can break easily. If osteopenia is diagnosed in an individual there is extremely high likelihood that this condition will progress to Osteoporosis.

What Are The Causes Of Osteopenia?

It is natural for the bone to become thinner as a person ages. This process usually starts in the middle age when the existing cells are resorbed by the body faster in comparison to how fast a new bone is made making the bones fragile. Because of this process, the bones start to lose minerals, mass, and their structure and become weak making them prone to frequent fractures. Osteopenia can also be caused due to other underlying medical conditions or treatments. Osteopenia is found to occur more in females than males.2

What Are The Symptoms Of Osteopenia?

Osteopenia usually has no symptoms. There is no pain or any other sign to signal that the bone is becoming thinner, although there may be incidences of frequent fractures as the bones tend to become fragile and soft.

How Is Osteopenia Diagnosed?

The main method for diagnosing Osteopenia is through a bone density test. This test is usually done to look for osteoporosis. To get the best and accurate results of bone density test the Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry test is done. A plain x-ray is not good enough for confirming the presence of Osteopenia as it is not sensitive enough to identify subtle changes in the bones.

What Are The Treatments For Osteopenia?

Osteopenia can be treated by taking measures to prevent it from progressing to Osteoporosis.1 This can be done through medications as well as lifestyle modifications etc.

Diet is an important factor when it comes to bone health. Adequate intake of calcium is imperative to maintain strong bones. The best source of calcium is milk. Hence, it is stressed that milk be given to children so that their bones become healthy. Some other sources of calcium are green vegetables. In cases of Osteopenia, the treating physician may prescribe calcium supplements in combination with vitamin D. The physician may prescribe diet rich in vitamin D as well such as eggs, salmon, swordfish, and fish oil.

Another important factor for development of strong bones is exercise. Simple weight-bearing exercises like walking, hiking, or dancing are good for the bones. An individual with Osteopenia may consult a physical therapist to formulate an exercise program to strengthen the bones.

Smoking cessation and abstaining from alcohol is also important for maintaining adequate bone health.

Measures To Prevent Osteopenia

Some Of The Ways To Prevent Osteopenia Are:

  • Since the bones do not start thinning until a person crosses age 30, hence it is imperative that people below age 30 take adequate calcium so that their bones remain strong and this they can prevent Osteopenia. Regular exercises to strengthen the bones will also be helpful. Avoid smoking and drinking. Have adequate vitamin D intake as well to keep the bones healthy.
  • For people above the age of 30, a healthy and balanced diet and regular exercise is enough to keep the bones healthy and prevent development of Osteopenia.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 22, 2019

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