Skip to main content
Dartmouth-Hitchcock logo
Summer Flowers In This Section


What is osteoporosis?

Healthy bone is a living tissue, made up mainly of calcium and protein. As such, bone is always gaining and losing cells. If more calcium from the bones is being lost than is being replaced, the bone becomes less dense and weakens. Weak bones tend to break more easily.

What are the signs of osteoporosis?

Often a person will not know they have osteoporosis until they've broken a bone (or sometimes have more than one break in a fairly short – one year – period of time.)

Risk factors for osteoporosis include:

  • Aging
  • Physical inactivity
  • Heredity
  • Menopause (reduced estrogen)
  • Excessive corticosteroid or thyroid hormone
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Smoking

What causes osteoporosis?

No one knows exactly what causes it.

Can I prevent osteoporosis?

Prevention measures are well known. These include:

  • Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake
  • Regular weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, jogging or dancing 3-4 times per week
  • Avoiding smoking or drinking in excess

How does my doctor tell if I have osteoporosis?

A doctor will flex and rotate your hips to check to see if you have pain and if so, where the pain is. You may get an X-ray and possibly an MRI (magnetic resonance image) to see if the bone marrow is dying or dead, and how much of your joint has been damaged to the point of collapse.

How is osteoporosis treated?

The prevention measures above will prevent help further bone loss. There are also several medications that may be taken, some that increase bone density and others that use hormones to stimulate bone growth. These options should be discussed with your physician.

Contact Us