Osteopenia is a bone condition that occurs due to lower bone density than normal. Your bones have minerals such as calcium and phosphate that make your bones dense and strong. Throughout the life cycle of a person, the cells of bone are reabsorbed or broken down. But there are specialised cells that use calcium in order to build new bone. As an individual grows, the body is not able to reabsorb the cells of bone faster than the replacement of cells, which causes lower bone density. This condition is not as serious as osteoporosis. People often confuse osteopenia with osteoporosis. In osteoporosis, the extent of the bone loss is severe than in osteopenia. But osteopenia increases the chances of developing osteoporosis. In osteopenia, your bones become weaker than normal. But bones are not much weak that they break easily. But this is common in the case of osteoporosis. Generally, people suffering from osteopenia do not experience symptoms.


There are no symptoms or signs of osteopenia. Check out various important points related to the symptoms of osteopenia:

-  You will not experience any pain in case of osteopenia unless your bone is fractured.

-  If a patient with osteopenia got his bone fractured then it is not necessary that he or she will have pain.

-  There are several bone fractures that can occur due to osteoporosis or osteopenia including vertebral fracture (fracture of a bone located in the spine) and hip fracture. These bone fractures are very painful.

-  There are some vertebral fractures that cause no pain.

Since there is a possibility that a person may not experience the pain in case of osteopenia, it increases the chances of osteopenia remain undiagnosed for a long time.


The most common cause of osteopenia is ageing. Women are more prone to this condition. If someone has a family history of osteopenia, that person is likely to develop this condition. Calcium keeps your bones healthy. Some hormonal changes occur at the time of menopause which increases the chances of women developing osteopenia. Men with lower levels of testosterone are more prone to osteopenia. Check out various causes of osteopenia:

-  Smoking can lead to osteopenia.

-  Drinking too much alcohol can also lead to osteopenia.

-  Consumption of carbonated drinks can cause osteopenia.

-  Chemotherapy is also one of the medical causes of osteopenia.

-  If a person does not involve in enough exercise then it can lead to osteopenia.

-  Hyperthyroidism or too much intake of thyroid medication can lead to osteopenia.

-  If a person is suffering from celiac disease and it is untreated then it can lead to osteopenia.

-  If a person is suffering from a lack of vitamin D or calcium then he or she is more prone to osteopenia.

-  There are certain medications that can lead to osteopenia. These medications include anti-seizure drugs including gabapentin (Horizant, Gralise, Neurontin), phenytoin (Phenytek, Dilantin), or carbamazepine (Tegretol, Carbatrol) and steroids including prednisone or hydrocortisone.

How is it diagnosed?

As per the National Osteoporosis Foundation, you are recommended to get your bone mineral density (BMD) tested if you fall into these categories:

-  You are a woman under or above the age of 65 years.

-  You have broken or fractured a bone after the age of 50 years.

-  You are a postmenopausal woman and younger than 65 years.

-  You are a man older than 50 years with various risk factors.

Sometimes, your doctor may prescribe you to go for BMD test for some other reasons. Bone mineral density (BMD) test is a fast and painless test. This test is conducted to check how thick or dense your bones are. It is checked by using the X-rays. This test also helps to measure the number of minerals in your bones. Bone mineral density test can be done in many ways. The most accurate and common way is the DEXA test.

DEXA test:

DEXA is the short form for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. It is the most common and accurate way to measure the bone mineral density. In DEXA test, X-rays are used with lower radiation. DEXA helps to measure the density of the bone in your heel, shin, finger, wrist, hip, or spine. The result of a DEXA test comes in T-score which helps the doctor to diagnose osteopenia.

-  If the T-score ranges between +1.0 to –1.0 then the person has normal density.

-  If the T-score ranges from –1 to –2.5 then the person has a low bone density or suffering from the problem of osteopenia.

-  If the T-score ranges between –2.5 or more then the person is suffering from osteoporosis.


If you want to prevent osteopenia then you should stop or avoid those things which cause osteopenia. Check out various ways of preventing osteopenia:

-  You should not smoke.

-  You should avoid or reduce the consumption of alcohol.

-  You should not drink carbonated beverages.

-  You should drink beverages containing caffeine.

-  You should maintain a healthy diet that helps your bones to stay strong.

-  You should make sure that you get enough vitamin D and calcium as lack of vitamin D and calcium can lead to osteopenia.

-  You should consume those food items which contain vitamin D. In addition to this, exposure of the sun helps you to get vitamin D. Spending at least 15 minutes in the sunlight two times a week is a good idea.

-  You can get calcium in various food items including spinach, broccoli, dried beans, salmon and dairy products like milk, yoghurt, and cheese.

-  If there is not enough calcium and vitamin D in your body then you can consult your doctor for suggesting you some supplements.

-  You should do physical exercises daily. In fact, you should talk to your doctor as he or she can help you with an exercise plan according to your situation.

-  If you fall in any of the categories as mentioned by National Osteoporosis Foundation for conducting bone mineral density test then you should get this test done as early as possible.


In the case of osteopenia, treatment is provided so that it does not develop into osteoporosis. The initial treatment that is provided in case of osteopenia includes managing diet and doing physical exercises daily. In osteopenia, the risk of fracturing a bone is quite less. That is why your doctor generally does not recommend you to have medicines unless your bone mineral density is quite close to the level of osteoporosis. If your body does not have enough calcium or vitamin D then your doctor might recommend you to have the supplements of calcium or vitamin D. Though, it always better to get enough of calcium and vitamin D in your diet.

- Diet for treating osteopenia: The doctor recommends you to have foods which contain enough calcium and vitamin D. You are also recommended to eat low-fat and nonfat dairy products including yoghurt, cheese, and milk. Orange juice, cereals, and bread are some of the food items that have calcium and vitamin D. Spinach, pink salmon, broccoli, and dried beans are the food items with calcium.

- Exercises for treating osteopenia: If you are a young adult or premenopausal female and suffering from osteopenia then you should walk, jump, or run at least for 30 minutes in a day as it will help you to strengthen your bones. These are all known as weight-bearing exercises as you do all of these by touching the ground with your feet. Biking and swimming do not help you to build your bones. You should talk to your doctor about the exercises that are best and safest for you.

- Medication for treating osteopenia: If your bones are getting weak then your doctor may prescribe you medicines in order to treat your osteopenia. Osteoporosis is also treated with the help of prescribed medicines. Ibandronate (Boniva), zoledronic acid (Zometa, Reclast), alendronate (Fosamax), raloxifene (Evista), and risedronate (Atelvia, Actonel) are some of the medicines that are prescribed by doctors to treat osteopenia in some cases and osteoporosis.


There are various complications associated with osteopenia. Osteopenia can sometimes lead to osteoporosis, fractures, depression and chronic pain. It is not necessary that you will experience pain in the case of osteopenia. But in certain circumstances, you may develop a chronic pain due to osteopenia. Osteopenia increases the risk of developing osteoporosis. Due to osteoporosis, the bones can easily fracture or break. The extent of the bone loss is severe in case of osteoporosis in comparison to osteopenia.


Check out various myths of osteopenia:

Myth #1: Osteopenia leads to osteoporosis.

-  If you are suffering from osteopenia then it means you have low bone density compared to the normal. This indicates that you are losing bone. It can be in a particular area or throughout the body. It is never late to build the bone, you can definitely repair it. You can resolve the problem of osteopenia by following a healthy diet, doing daily exercises and taking certain medications. Osteopenia may lead to osteoporosis but it would not necessarily happen.

Myth #2: If you want to avoid osteopenia then you should not consume alcohol.

-  A lot of people assume that alcohol is bad for bones. There are a number of studies which prove that if you consume alcohol in moderate amount then you may increase the density of your bone.


Osteopenia is a bone condition in which the density of your bone is less than standard. The most common cause of osteopenia is ageing, your bones become weak as you grow. You may not experience any symptoms of osteopenia. That is why osteopenia remains undiagnosed for a long period of time. Smoking, drinking alcohol, drinking carbonated or caffeinated beverages, lack of physical exercises, hyperthyroidism, and celiac disease are some of the possible causes of osteopenia.

Your doctor may recommend you to go for DEXA test in order to diagnose osteopenia. DEXA test provides result in T-score. Your doctor checks the T-score and tells you if you have osteopenia or osteoporosis. The treatment is provided after the diagnosis. The initial treatment is all about maintaining a good diet and doing physical exercises daily. In certain cases, your doctor may prescribe you to have medicines. Medicines are recommended if your bones are too weak or you are suffering from osteoporosis. You should eat food items containing vitamin D and calcium. You should do weight-bearing exercises including running, jumping, or walking. A lot of ways are available that help you to build your bone. You should get the proper treatment otherwise it can lead to various complications including osteoporosis, chronic pain, fractures, and depression. There is a possibility that osteopenia can grow into osteoporosis. People have a lot of myths or misconceptions about osteopenia. Osteopenia leads to osteoporosis, is one of the common myths related to Osteopenia.

If you are looking for the answers to various questions including:

-  What is osteopenia?

-  What are the signs or symptoms of osteopenia?

-  What are the causes of osteopenia?

-  How is osteopenia diagnosed?

-  How is osteopenia prevented?

-  How is osteopenia treated?

-  What are various complications associated with osteopenia?

-  What are the myths of osteopenia?

Then you are at the right place, please do scroll up the page for the answers to your questions.

Last updated on : 14-09-2018

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