Register To Be A Donor
Body Donation Blog
Cross section of human bone showing what osteoporosis looks like

Osteoporosis: The Silent Disease

Osteoporosis also known as a “porous bone” is a bone disease that develops when bone mineral density or bone decreases or when the structure or strength of the bone changes.

Healthy bones look like a honeycomb when viewed under a microscope, porous bones have large spaces of holes within the honeycomb meaning your bones become more fragile and tend to fracture or break easily. The bones that are commonly affected are the hip, spine, and wrist.

Osteoporosis is referred to as the “silent” disease because there typically are not any symptoms and most people do not know they have it until they break a bone. While symptoms are not common, some signs that have been documented are back pain, loss of height over a period of time, a stooped posture, and bones that break easier than expected (serious cases including minor falls or simply sneezing).

Osteoporosis is common, check out these stats gathered by AMEGEN:

  • Every 3 seconds, someone in the world breaks a bone because of osteoporosis.
  • The annual number of fractures due to osteoporosis is projected to increase from 1.9 million to 3.2 million from 2018 to 2040 a 68% increase.
  • Osteoporosis-related fractures account for 432,000 hospital admissions and 180,000 nursing home admissions.
  • Osteoporosis is a major cause of fractures in postmenopausal women and older men (50 and above).
  • Women are more likely to have Osteoporosis.
  • Less than 20% of women receive treatment for osteoporosis – even after breaking a bone.
Model of cross section of the human spine

Anyone can be at risk for developing osteoporosis, but some common risk factors usually include getting older, having low body weight, having a family history of osteoporosis, being confined to bed due to prolonged periods of time, a significant drop in estrogen or testosterone, taking certain medication, being a white or Asian woman, or already having low bone density.

While there is no cure, there are several ways to help prevent the disease and fractures including eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, staying physically active, drinking alcohol in moderation, and avoiding smoking.

Bone loss and density are essentially what osteoporosis is and there are medical conditions and procedures that significantly increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis. They include:

Autoimmune Disorders

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Lupus
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis

Medical Procedures

  • Gastrectomy
  • Gastrointestinal bypass procedures

Hematologic – Blood Disorders

  • Leukemia and lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Sickle cell disease

Blood-Bone Marrow Disorders

  • Thalassemia

Endocrine-Hormonal Disorders

  • Diabetes
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Thyrotoxicosis
  • Irregular periods
  • Premature menopause
  • Low levels of testosterone and estrogen in men

Digestive and Gastrointestinal Disorders

  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Weight loss surgery


  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer

Neurological – Nervous System Disorders

  • Stroke
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Spinal cord injuries

Mental Illness

  • Depression
  • Eating disorders

Other Diseases and Conditions

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Liver disease, including biliary cirrhosis
  • Organ transplants
  • Polio and post-polio syndrome
  • Scoliosis

Diagnosing osteoporosis will come with a doctor’s visit where you should report any previous fractures, your lifestyle habits, any medical conditions, family health history, and menstrual history. There the doctor will do a physical exam to check for any loss of weight, changes in posture, balance and gait, and muscle strength.

Doctor with pin ribbon on her lab coat sitting at her desk holding patients hand who is sitting across from her

Lastly, a doctor may order a bone mineral density (BMD) test in either your hip, spine, or wrist to help diagnose osteoporosis, detect low bone density, predict risk for future fractures and monitor the effectiveness of ongoing treatment of osteoporosis. Some medications that help with osteoporosis include:

  • Analgesics: relieve pain but do not reduce inflammation, work by changing how the body responds to pain
  • NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): reduce inflammation and ease pain
  • Counterirritants: creamers and ointments that contain a menthol or peppermint base that excite and subsequently desensitize nociceptive sensory neurons
  • Corticosteroids: powerful medications that reduce swelling and suppress the immune system
  • Hyaluronic Acid: a naturally occurring fluid in your joints that acts as a lubricant injected at the pain point for pain relief