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Osteoporosis In Older Patients

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New bone formation and old bone resorption constantly keep happening in our bodies in balance. But when this balance is impaired, it is termed osteoporosis.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Mohamad Ali Rida

Published At October 13, 2022
Reviewed AtDecember 21, 2023


Osteoporosis is identified symptomatically in many people only when they have fractures. In osteoporosis, bones become fragile, giving rise to fragility fractures that are generally seen in a population above the age group of 50. Along with decreased bone mineralization rate, incidents of falls in the elderly contribute to the fragility of fractures. An essential fracture risk assessment is an assessment of falls in the elderly population. Detection of osteoporosis happens only at a much later stage when the bone starts to break, causing severe debilitating pain, hence involving the elderly age group. This can affect their ability to walk, cause postural deformities, reduce their daily activities and interfere with the patient’s quality of life.

Who Is at a Greater Risk of Developing Osteoporosis?

Women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis when compared to men. They develop osteoporosis at a much-advanced age, sometimes after they attain menopause. White and Asian women are more likely to develop osteoporosis compared to the black population. Women should take additional care of their bones as they might experience increased bone loss for ten years after menopause. Even though women are at a greater risk of developing this disease, men should also take care and avoid all the risk factors leading to osteoporosis, as they cannot be completely risk-free of this disease.

What Are the Causes of Osteoporosis in the Elderly?

Unfortunately, no specific cause leads to osteoporosis, but many listed risk factors exist.

  • A family history where a close family member had osteoporosis can put you at a higher risk of developing the disease.

  • Elderly patients with smaller bone frames compared to those who are fat with a broader bone frame are at much higher risk of osteoporotic fractures as they have an amount of bone that can quickly be resorbed.

  • Certain underlying medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, sickle cell anemia, thyroid disorders, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), celiac disease, and stroke can make the patient more prone to developing osteoporosis.

  • In addition, certain medications like steroids, anti-seizure medications, cancer chemotherapeutic drugs, and hormone treatments for certain cancer can increase a person’s risk of developing osteoporosis.

  • Apart from the causes mentioned above, even a sedentary lifestyle with a lack of exercise can lead to weakened bones causing osteoporosis. Smoking and drinking can be risk factors for developing this disease.

  • Nutritional deficiencies like calcium and vitamin D can develop osteoporosis in old age.

What Are the Symptoms of Osteoporosis in Older Adults?

Osteoporosis does not cause alarming symptoms until the bones get brittle and fracture. A few symptoms that few patients might experience are:

How to Diagnose Osteoporosis in Elderly Patients?

Osteoporosis can be diagnosed using the bone density testin elderly patients above the age group of 50 years. Patients who have a history of fractured bone following a minor fall should undergo a bone density test to check for osteoporosis. A bone density test uses dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans which are low-intensity X-rays used to determine the mineral content of the patient’s bone.

Who Should Take This Test?

  • Both men and women have risk factors for developing osteoporosis.

  • Post-menopausal women with high-risk factors.

  • Women in their menopause period, and a bone density test of the hip and spine of women 65 years of age or older.

  • Along with this test, a computed tomography(CT) scan and ultrasound can also be done as further investigations.

What Is the Treatment for Osteoporosis in Elderly Patients?

It is best to keep a check on the risk factors and consult a doctor at the earliest. The treatment protocol depends on the bone density test scores; if the risk of breaking your bone in the next ten years is much higher, the doctor might not start with medications but try to modify the risk factors to reduce bone loss and falls.

1) Medicines:

In medications, Bisphosphonates (Alendronate, Risedronate, Ibandronate, and Zoledronic acid) are the most widely used drugs.

  • Common side effects when these drugs are taken orally are nausea, heartburn, and abdominal pain. When they are given in intravenous (IV) form, they might cause fever, headache, and muscle aches.

  • Very rarely do they cause a crack in the thigh bone and osteonecrosis of the jaw bone following dental extraction.

  • Another prescribed drug is Denosumab which produces similar results as Bisphosphonates.

  • The mode of administration for Denosumab is delivering a shot under the skin every six months.

  • They cause similar side effects like osteonecrosis of the jaw and rarely a crack in the thigh bone.

  • Hormone-related therapy should be started. Estrogen should be given to post-menopausal women, which helps maintain bone density.

  • In men, osteoporosis can be linked to a decline in testosterone levels with increasing age; therefore, testosterone therapy is recommended for men.

  • In addition, doctors might prescribe a group of bone-building medications (like Teriparatide, Abaloparatide, and Romosozumab) to treat osteoporosis. These are used in certain severe cases along with other osteoporosis drugs.

2) Dietary Planning:

People diagnosed with osteoporosis are advised to take increased quantities of calcium and vitamin D in their diet, along with multivitamin supplements, which will help in getting a sufficient amount of these nutrients. It is recommended that adults, especially women aged 50 years and older need to take 1,200 mg of calcium and 800 - 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily.

3) Lifestyle Changes:

Making lifestyle changes after being diagnosed with osteoporosis is very important. Give up on smoking, drinking, and other forms of tobacco; this will improve muscle strength and reduce bone loss. Include exercise in daily routine like, jogging, walking, dancing, etc., to improve bone remodeling. It is advisable to consult a doctor to make an exercise routine.


Once diagnosed with osteoporosis, be very careful to avoid any falls. Avoid clutter, spread non-slippery rugs across the house, provide sufficient lighting in the house, and hold on to some form of grip while taking a bath. Follow the treatment protocol given by the doctor strictly. Make necessary dietary and lifestyle changes.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Major Problem in Elderly People That Have Osteoporosis?

The major problem with osteoporosis in old age is the increased susceptibility to fractures. This is because the bone becomes porous, brittle, and fragile. Therefore, minor accidents or a sudden fall can cause hairline or major fractures. Another primary concern is the inability to stand or sit in one position for a long time.


How To Manage Osteoporosis in Old Age?

Management of osteoporosis in old age includes–
- Vitamin D and calcium supplements strengthen bones and prevent them from becoming brittle. 
- Hormone therapy like estrogen and testosterone therapy to delay the effects of osteoporosis.
- Bone-building medications help promote bone formation and reduce bone resorption.


What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is an age-dependent disease of the bone that mostly occurs in old age. The bone is subjected to constant remodeling (bone formation and resorption). When bone resorption is more than bone formation, the bone starts depleting and becomes porous and brittle. As a result of this low bone density, the person becomes more susceptible to fractures. Therefore, one must take care and start with vitamin D and Calcium supplements to delay the symptoms of osteoporosis at an early age.


What Is End-Stage Osteoporosis?

During the end stage of osteoporosis, there is significant bone loss. The bones become soft and porous, especially in the spine, resulting in deformity. During this stage, any slight impact on the bone could cause the bone to fracture. The bone may break into smaller fragments that cannot be fixed with minor surgical procedures.


What Should One Avoid Doing In Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease of the bone characterized by low bone-density levels, usually occurring in older age groups. When suffering from osteoporosis, one must avoid–
- High-impact exercises.
- Walking on slippery surfaces.
- Leading a sedentary life.
- Consumption of alcohol and smoking.


How to Increase Bone Density Quickly?

Doctors may prescribe medications to delay bone resorption and promote bone density. Oral medications that help increase bone density and vitamin D supplements are the fastest way to increase bone density. Calcium supplements are the first line of medications to be prescribed in osteoporosis to help increase bone density.


How Quickly Does Osteoporosis Progress?

Studies show that bone loss begins at a rate of 0.25 percent a year and varies depending on genetic and environmental factors. This is considered the second stage of osteoporosis. One must understand that this is a perfectly normal part of the aging process. However, certain factors (for example, other medical conditions and factors) may decrease bone density faster than the normal range. This may increase the risk of early osteoporosis in some people.


What Are the Early Warning Signs of Osteoporosis?

Here are the early warning signs of osteoporosis–
- Recurrent fractures of the limbs, wrist, and spine.
- Loss of height (two inches or more over a while).
- Periodontal bone loss and receding gums.
- A curved, stooped shape to the spine.
- Persistent lower back pain.
- Low calcium levels in the body.
- Low vitamin D levels in the body.


Can Walking Reverse Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is an age-dependent bone disorder. Physical activities like walking will help a person stay active and delay the symptoms of osteoporosis. Walking, however, will not reverse the symptoms of osteoporosis. Medications, lifestyle modifications, and vitamin supplements can help increase bone density and reverse osteoporosis.


What Foods Should Be Avoided In Osteoporosis?

Diets high in sugar, processed foods, and excessive salt intake could impact bone health and increase the risk of osteoporosis. Likewise, a high-cholesterol diet, sweetened beverages, fried foods, processed meats, and refined grains could accelerate osteoporosis. One must also limit the intake of citric foods and juices.


Does Osteoporosis Make One Feel Tired?

Osteoporosis independently does not make one tired, but the long-term effects of osteoporosis and other factors can make one feel fatigued. Weak bones are not able to maintain posture for too long. As a result, weak bones and low bone strength could cause body weakness.


Does Osteoporosis Affect Teeth?

Osteoporosis affects all the bones in the body, including the jaw bones in the oral cavity. Low bone density levels cause jaw bones to become weak and porous. However, weak bone structures cannot hold the tooth in place. As a result, the tooth loses bone and gum support and starts to shake or move. This may cause early tooth loss in people with osteoporosis.
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Dr. Mohamad Ali Rida
Dr. Mohamad Ali Rida



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