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Osteopenia – Risk Factors, Diagnosis and Treatment

Osteopenia is a disorder that causes a loss of bone mass. The condition is rarely severe, but it is a significant risk factor for the development of osteoporosis. Osteopenia most commonly occurs in individuals 50 years of age and older. With osteopenia, bone density decreases to an abnormal level and results in an increased risk of fracture. People diagnosed with osteopenia do not experience any symptoms, as there are none associated with the condition.

An individual’s bone density typically reaches its peak at age 35. Bone mass then begins to break down and continues to do so for the rest of the lifespan. When bone material deteriorates to a certain level, osteopenia is diagnosed.

Risk factors for osteopenia include:

  • Female gender
  • Caucasian or Asian ethnicity with small bones
  • Having a family member with low bone density
  • Onset of early menopause (before 45 years of age)
  • Ovary removal before the beginning of menopause
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Low levels of dietary vitamin D and calcium
  • Excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption
  • Tobacco use
  • Using phenytoin or prednisone

People with a history of anorexia, bulimia, Cushing’s syndrome, or certain thyroid problems may have a greater chance of osteopenia developing.

A bone density test known as a DEXA scan is used to detect osteopenia. DEXA scans are recommended for women over 65 and those under 65 who have at least one risk factor and our postmenopausal. The scan may also be advised for postmenopausal women that have sustained a bone break with normal daily activities, or for men that may be at higher risk of developing the condition.

Osteopenia can be prevented by eating the right calcium and vitamin D rich foods and doing weight-bearing exercises on a regular basis. Calcium or vitamin D supplements may also be prescribed. Medication is not necessary unless bone mineral density is close to the level of osteoporosis.

If you have sustained a compression fracture and are interested in learning about the treatment options we provide, please call us at our Seguin for New Braunfels offices.