Osteopenia refers to a low bone mineral density, which increases the chance of bone fractures. But in this condition bone density is not as low as that of osteoporosis. This type of bone loss can make a person prone to bone fractures. Osteopenia and osteoporosis both refer to different degrees of bone loss. Bone loss is a condition that is very common with aging. When someone is middle-aged, bone cells are normally reabsorbed by the body. This makes the bone thin and weak. This condition is more common in women than in men.
Some of the common causes of osteopenia include:
- Family history and genetics
- Decreased levels of hormones like estrogen and testosterone
- Alcohol abuse
- Being thin
- Exposure to radiation
- Certain medications like corticosteroids, antiseizure drugs
- Malabsorption of minerals
- Chronic inflammation
Factors that increase the risk of osteopenia may finally lead to osteoporosis. Osteopenia may remain asymptomatic and one comes to know of its existence only when a bone fracture occurs. Fractures caused due to osteopenia may not cause severe pain. People who have been diagnosed with osteopenia should discuss with the doctor regarding the lifestyle changes that has to be implemented. Doctors may recommend vitamin D and calcium supplements for controlling the situation. Not everyone needs to test for bone mineral density.
People who should ideally test for the presence of the condition include:
- Women above 65-years-old and men above 70-years-old
- Postmenopausal women
- Adults who have conditios associated with bone loss
- Those who are treated for osteoporosis
Lifestyle modifications are the most important step for alleviating the symptoms of osteopenia. Prescription medication may be suggested only for few people. Treatment people for osteopenia differ from person to person. Most common lifestyle changes required for controlling this situation include weight-bearing exercises and adding vitamin D and calcium supplements in the diet. Quitting smoking and limiting the intake of alcohol also reduces osteopenia.
Healthy living is the key to prevent osteopenia. Ensuring adequate intake of vitamin D and calcium and getting plenty of exercise helps to control osteopenia. People who are taking steroids and prednisone may need to have prescription medication to prevent loss of bone density. Understanding and treating osteopenia is important as it cause bone fractures.