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Bone Loss

What Is Bone Loss?

  • Although bones may seem like hard and lifeless structures, bones are living tissues with blood supply and active metabolism.
  • Bones respond to exercise and a healthy diet by becoming stronger. Strong bones are important for health.
  • Bones make up our skeletons and provide structure and support for our bodies. However, bones also act like a storehouse for minerals that our bodies need, especially calcium.
  • During a person's lifetime, the body constantly breaks down old bone (through a process called resorption) and builds up new bone.
  • Any time old bone is broken down faster than new bone is made, net bone loss occurs. Bone loss can lead to low bone density (osteopenia), weakness of the bone, and eventually osteoporosis. This can lead to bone fractures (broken bones), even with minimal trauma.
  • Osteoporosis (or porous bone) is a disease in which bones become weak and fragile. Porous bones have increased fracture risk and are more likely to break.
  • Osteoporosis is a serious disease that affects millions of people worldwide. Without prevention or treatment, osteoporosis can progress without pain or symptoms until a bone breaks (fractures).
  • Fracture from weak bones commonly occur in the hip, spine (vertebral), and wrist.
Last Reviewed 12/12/2017

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Bone Loss:

Bone Loss - Medications

What medications were you prescribed to prevent osteoporosis? Were they effective?

Bone Loss - Patient Experience

Do you have a condition that caused or is causing bone loss? Please describe your experience.

Diagnosing Bone Loss

Bone Mineral Density Tests

Early detection of low bone mass (osteopenia) or osteoporosis is the most important step for prevention and treatment. If osteopenia or osteoporosis has occurred, a person can take action to stop the progression of bone loss. Remember, effective treatment or prevention cannot take place if a person does not know he or she has, or is at risk for, osteoporosis.

The only way to accurately test the strength and solidness of the bones is with bone mineral density (BMD) tests. Bone mineral density tests measure the solidness and mass (bone density) in the spine, hip, and/or wrist, which are the most common sites of fractures due to osteoporosis. Other tests measure bone density in the heel or hand. These tests are performed like X-rays. They are painless, noninvasive, and safe. The risk of radiation is very minimal, much less than even having a chest X-ray film.


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Osteoporosis (Secondary) »

Osteoporosis, a chronic progressive disease, is the most common metabolic bone disease in the United States.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


Medical Dictionary