Osteoporosis silently weakens your bones, which can make you more likely to experience a bone fracture (broken bone). You can prevent bone density loss with treatments and exercise. Ask your provider about a bone density test if you’re over 65 or have a family history of osteoporosis.


A healthy spine vs a spine with low bone density and compression fractures.
If you have osteoporosis your bones are much more fragile and weaker than they should be.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens your bones. It makes your bones thinner and less dense than they should be. People with osteoporosis are much more likely to experience broken bones (bone fractures).

Your bones are usually dense and strong enough to support your weight and absorb most kinds of impacts. As you age, your bones naturally lose some of their density and their ability to regrow (remodel) themselves. If you have osteoporosis your bones are much more fragile than they should be, and are much weaker.

Most people don’t know they have osteoporosis until it causes them to break a bone. Osteoporosis can make any of your bones more likely to break, but the most commonly affected bones include your:

The sooner a healthcare provider diagnoses osteoporosis, the less likely you are to experience bone fractures. Ask a healthcare provider about checking your bone density, especially if you’re over 65, have had a bone fracture after age 50, or someone in your biological family has osteoporosis.

How common is osteoporosis?

More than 50 million people in the U.S. live with osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is common in people over 50. Experts estimate that half of all people assigned female at birth and 1 in 4 people assigned male at birth over 50 have osteoporosis.

Studies have found that 1 in 3 adults over 50 who don’t have osteoporosis yet have some degree of reduced bone density (osteopenia). People with osteopenia have early signs of osteoporosis. If it’s not treated, osteopenia can become osteoporosis.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Symptoms and Causes

What are osteoporosis symptoms?

Osteoporosis doesn’t have symptoms the way lots of other health conditions do. That’s why healthcare providers sometimes call it a silent disease.

You won’t feel or notice anything that signals you might have osteoporosis. You won’t have a headache, fever or stomachache that lets you know something in your body is wrong.

The most common “symptom” is suddenly breaking a bone, especially after a small fall or minor accident that usually wouldn’t hurt you.

Even though osteoporosis doesn’t directly cause symptoms, you might notice a few changes in your body that can mean your bones are losing strength or density. These warning signs of osteoporosis can include:

  • Losing an inch or more of your height.
  • Changes in your natural posture (stooping or bending forward more).
  • Shortness of breath (if disks in your spine are compressed enough to reduce your lung capacity).
  • Lower back pain (pain in your lumbar spine).

It might be hard to notice changes in your own physical appearance. A loved one may be more likely to see changes in your body (especially your height or posture). People sometimes joke about older adults “shrinking” as they age, but this can be a sign that you should visit a healthcare provider for a bone density test.

What causes osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis happens as you get older and your bones lose their ability to regrow and reform themselves.

Your bones are living tissue like any other part of your body. It might not seem like it, but they’re constantly replacing their own cells and tissue throughout your life. Up until about age 30, your body naturally builds more bone than you lose. After age 35, bone breakdown happens faster than your body can replace it, which causes a gradual loss of bone mass.

If you have osteoporosis, you lose bone mass at a greater rate. People in postmenopause lose bone mass even faster.

Osteoporosis risk factors

Anyone can develop osteoporosis. Some groups of people are more likely to experience it, including:

  • Anyone over 50.
  • People assigned female at birth (AFAB), especially people AFAB in postmenopause.
  • People with a family history (if someone in your biological family has osteoporosis).
  • People who are naturally thin or who have “smaller frames.” People with thinner statures often have less natural bone mass, so any losses can affect them more.
  • People who smoke or use tobacco products.

Some health conditions can make you more likely to develop osteoporosis, including:

Some medications or surgical procedures can increase your risk of osteoporosis:

Certain aspects of your diet and exercise routine can make you more likely to develop osteoporosis, including:

  • Not getting enough calcium or vitamin D in your diet.
  • Not getting enough physical exercise.
  • Regularly drinking alcohol (more than two drinks per day).


Diagnosis and Tests

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

A healthcare provider will diagnose osteoporosis with a bone density test. A bone density test is an imaging test that measures the strength of your bones. It uses X-rays to measure how much calcium and other minerals are in your bones.

Healthcare providers sometimes refer to bone density tests as DEXA scans, DXA scans or bone density scans. All of these are different names that refer to the same test.

A bone density test uses low levels of X-rays to measure the density and mineral content of your bones. It’s similar to a typical X-ray. It’s an outpatient procedure, which means you won’t have to stay in the hospital. You can go home as soon as you finish your test. There are no needles or injections in this test.

Checking for changes in your bone density is the best way to catch osteoporosis before it causes a bone fracture. Your provider might suggest you get regular bone density tests if you have a family history of osteoporosis, if you’re over 50, or you have osteopenia.

Management and Treatment

How is osteoporosis treated?

Your healthcare provider will suggest a combination of treatments that slow down your bone loss and strengthen your existing bone tissue. The most important part of treating osteoporosis is preventing bone fractures.

The most common osteoporosis treatments include:

  • Exercise: Regular exercise can strengthen your bones (and all the tissue connected to them, like your muscles, tendons and ligaments). Your provider might suggest weight-bearing exercise to strengthen your muscles and train your balance. Exercises that make your body work against gravity like walking, yoga, Pilates and tai chi can improve your strength and balance without putting too much stress on your bones. You might need to work with a physical therapist to find exercises and movements that are right for you.
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements: You might need over-the-counter or prescription calcium or vitamin D supplements. Your provider will tell you which type you need, how often you should take them and which dosage you’ll need.
  • Medications for osteoporosis: Your provider will tell you which prescriptions will work best for you and your body. Some of the most common medications providers use to treat osteoporosis include hormone therapies like replacement estrogen or testosterone and bisphosphonates. People with severe osteoporosis or a high risk of fractures might need medications, including parathyroid hormone (PTH) analogs, denosumab and romosozumab. These medications are usually given as injections.



How can I lower my risk of osteoporosis?

Exercise and making sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet are usually all you’ll need to prevent osteoporosis. Your provider will help you find a combination of treatments that’s best for you and your bone health.

Follow these general safety tips to reduce your risk of an injury:

  • Always wear your seatbelt.
  • Wear the right protective equipment for all activities and sports.
  • Make sure your home and workspace are free from clutter that could trip you or others.
  • Always use the proper tools or equipment at home to reach things. Never stand on chairs, tables or countertops.
  • Follow a diet and exercise plan that’s healthy for you.
  • Use a cane or walker if you have difficulty walking or have an increased risk for falls.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have osteoporosis?

You should expect to manage osteoporosis for a long time, usually the rest of your life. You’ll need regular appointments with a healthcare provider and bone density tests. Your provider will monitor any changes in your bone density and will adjust your treatments as needed.

Living With

How do I take care of myself?

Following a diet and exercise plan that’s healthy for you will help you maintain your bone (and overall) health. See a healthcare provider for regular checkups. They’ll also help catch any issues or symptoms that affect your bones as soon as possible.

Talk to your provider about a bone density test if you’re over 65 or have a family history of osteoporosis.

When should I see my healthcare provider?

Visit a healthcare provider if you notice any changes in your body that might be osteoporosis warning signs. Tell your provider about any other symptoms you’re experiencing, especially if you have bone pain or trouble moving.

When should I go to the ER?

Go to the emergency room if you think you have a broken bone or if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Intense pain.
  • You can’t move a part of your body.
  • A part of your body is noticeably different looking or out of its usual place.
  • You can see your bone through your skin.
  • Swelling.
  • New bruising that appears at the same time as any of these other symptoms.

What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?

  • What is my risk for developing osteoporosis?
  • How often will I need bone density tests?
  • Which treatments will I need?
  • What are some good exercises I can do to help strengthen my bones?
  • Will I need physical therapy?

Additional Common Questions

What is the life expectancy of someone with osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis itself isn’t fatal and won’t change your life expectancy (how long you’ll live). But it can make you more likely to experience a bone fracture (and can increase your risk of more severe breaks or complications from a fracture). Some studies have found that hip fractures in adults older than 65 lead to reduced mobility and an earlier death.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re worried about your risk of falls or bone fractures. They’ll help you stay safe and healthy.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Osteoporosis makes your bones thinner and weaker than they should be. It can be dangerous because it makes you more likely to experience a bone fracture. Lots of people don’t even know they have osteoporosis until it causes a broken bone.

The best way to prevent bone fractures is catching osteoporosis before it can hurt you. Visit a healthcare provider for regular checkups. Ask them when you’ll need bone density tests and how often you should have follow-up tests to monitor your bone health.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 07/20/2023.

Learn more about our editorial process.

Appointments 216.444.2606