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Patient Guide to Osteoporosis Prevention

Warning Signs of Osteoporosis

4 Possible Signs of the “Silent Disease”

One of the most troubling parts about osteoporosis is that it is often considered a “silent disease” in its early stages—you may not realize that you have the condition until you suffer from a bone fracture or break. You may be experiencing bone loss slowly over time without any indication that it is happening.

A bone xray or DEXA scan can alert your doctor to bone loss. A diet rich in vitamin D and key minerals and daily walking or other physical activity will help keep your bones strong and reduce your risk of fractures. Photo: edwardolive @ istock

Because of this, it is important to practice healthy bone behaviors, including those outlined in this Patients’ Guide, even if you do not have any symptoms of osteoporosis. You can reduce your risk factors for the condition and better prepare yourself if you do eventually develop osteoporosis by taking proactive steps to:

  • improve your diet by incorporating more calcium, vitamin D, and other bone-friendly nutrients,
  • create an osteoporosis prevention exercise regimen that incorporates strength-training and weight-bearing exercise,
  • and open up a dialogue with your doctor about osteoporosis.  

There are, however, a few warning signs that may indicate low bone mineral density and a heightened risk for developing osteoporosis. If you have any of the symptoms or conditions below, talk to your doctor about steps you can take to strengthen and protect your bones.

  1. Low bone density: Low bow density (which is sometimes called “osteopenia”) refers to a condition in which your bone density is lower than average, but not low enough to be considered osteoporosis. Low bone density does not guarantee that you will have osteoporosis in the future; in fact, for some people, the condition is completely normal. However, it does mean that if you do begin to lose bone, you may be more likely to suffer from fractures or breaks since you have less bone to lose than other people.
  2. Bones that easily fracture: Bone fractures and breaks are often the earliest signs that people experience of osteoporosis. Since your bones have less strength, you are more likely to experience serious bone injuries if you suffer from a fall, or experience other bone trauma. If you find that your bones fracture easily, talk to you doctor about a bone density test which can determine whether or not your frequent bone trauma is a result of osteoporosis.  
  3. Poor posture or a “widow’s hump”: Compression fractures in the vertebrae, the bones in your spine, are more common in people with osteoporosis (the weakened bones can fracture under normal pressure, such as the effort it takes to open a window, or lift something). This can lead to problems with your posture, or the appearance of a “widow’s hump”—a curvature in the spine near the shoulders.
  4. Having an immediate relative with osteoporosis: Your risk of having osteoporosis goes up if you have a close family member with the condition.

In its earliest stages, osteoporosis often shows no symptoms. However, low bone density in osteopenia, frequent fractures, and problems with your posture can all be signs of osteoporosis. If you think you might have osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about how to obtain an accurate diagnosis, and about treatment options that can improve both your bone health and your quality of life.