Osteoporosis Home > Causes of Osteoporosis
Common causes of osteoporosis include age-related bone loss, smoking, alcohol abuse, long-term corticosteroid use, and certain diseases. It's thought that race and ethnicity may also play a role in the development of osteoporosis, but more research is needed to determine the connection.
There are two main types of osteoporosis: primary and secondary. The cause of primary osteoporosis can be age-related bone loss (sometimes called senile osteoporosis), or the cause may be unknown (this is called idiopathic osteoporosis). The term idiopathic osteoporosis is used only for people less than 70 years old; in older people, age-related bone loss is assumed to be the cause.
The loss of bone mass that occurs in secondary osteoporosis is caused by certain lifestyle factors, diseases, or medications. The majority of people with the condition have at least one secondary cause.
Bone is living, growing tissue. Throughout your lifetime, your bone density is affected as old bone is removed (resorption) and new bone is added to the skeleton (formation). During the childhood and teen years, new bone is added faster than existing bone is resorbed by the body. When a person reaches the age of 30, this process begins to reverse. This impact on bone density is a natural stage in development and is not something people should normally be concerned about.
As stated previously, as a natural part of aging, bone dissolves and is resorbed faster than new bone is made, and bones become thinner. Osteoporosis will develop when bone resorption occurs too quickly or when replacement occurs too slowly. This condition is also more likely to develop if you did not reach optimal peak bone mass during your bone-building years, because there is less bone to lose.
Women are more likely than men to develop osteoporosis. This is because women generally have smaller, thinner bones, and because they can lose bone tissue rapidly in the first four to eight years after menopause due to the sharp decline in production of the hormone estrogen. Produced by the ovaries, estrogen has been shown to have a protective effect on bone. Women usually go through menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. After menopause, bone loss in women greatly exceeds that of men. However, by age 65, women and men tend to lose bone tissue at the same rate.
While men do not undergo the equivalent of menopause, production of the male hormone testosterone may decrease, and this can lead to increased bone loss and a greater risk of developing osteoporosis.