Diseases that Affect the Bones

Osteoporosis is a metabolic disease that weakens bones, increases the risk for fractures and causes chronic pain and weakness. Bones most often affected by osteoporosis are the hips, spine and wrists, but the ribs and other bones are also at risk.

Osteoporosis can affect both men and women. However, women are four times more likely to develop the disease and postmenopausal women are at the highest risk.

A lack of calcium throughout life can play a role in the development of osteoporosis. Other causes of osteoporosis include:

  • Chronic gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease, anorexia nervosa and bulimia
  • Long-term steroid treatment for other medical conditions
  • Parathyroid disorders
  • Post-transplant osteoporosis

Rare causes of osteoporosis include premature ovarian failure, chronic hypogonadism and low testosterone in men, and hyperthyroidism.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Osteoporosis often develops and progresses without any symptoms or pain, which is why regular screenings for bone loss are so important. Symptoms may include:

  • Bone fractures
  • Loss of posture
  • Loss of height
  • Lower back pain

Diagnosing osteoporosis and metabolic bone disease may require several tests, including:

  • A DXA or DEXA bone density scan – recommended annually for women over 65, men over 70 and anyone age 50 or older who has had a fracture
  • Blood tests and urinalysis to measure hormone levels, bone turnover markers, and calcium and vitamin D levels
  • Vertebral fracture assessment (VFA) to gauge the presence and severity of bone fractures in your spine

Prevention of metabolic bone disease is the best treatment – your lifestyle and diet are the most important factors you can control. If you are a postmenopausal woman, hormone therapy may also help prevent bone loss. Typically, people with metabolic bone disease can continue to live a normal life but need to be careful to avoid falls, which can increase the risk of fractures.

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Comprehensive Care from World-Class Physicians

Evaluating, preventing and managing osteoporosis and its related complications requires a multidisciplinary approach. Penn State Health features a collaborative team that includes endocrinologists, nuclear medicine physicians and radiologists, parathyroid and orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists and certified dietitians. Our team walks you through the process and helps verify insurance coverage and determine any out-of-pocket costs.

We’ve been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as a high-performing specialty. This honor was earned because our doctors consistently deliver exceptional patient care and outcomes through advanced treatments, translational research and provider training. Our medical team is consistently recognized nationally through the Best Doctors in America and America’s Top Doctors awards. Our specialists also participate in worldwide conferences and speaking engagements in countries including India, Korea, Germany and Japan, among others.

Individualized Treatment Plans

The experts at Penn State Health don’t offer cookie-cutter solutions. We tailor your treatment plan to your individual needs, goals and overall health.

Medication focuses on preventing bone loss or building bones. Options include:

  • Evenity (romosuzumab) – injection of antisclerostin monoclonal antibody given monthly for a year
  • Forteo (teriparatide) – injection of synthetic/recombinant parathyroid hormone you give yourself every day for two years
  • Oral bisphosphonates – pills taken either once a week or once a month
  • Prolia (denosumab) – injection given underneath the skin once a month
  • Reclast (zoledronic acid) – injection given intravenously as an infusion once a year
  • Tymlos (abaloparatide) – injection synthetic/recombinant parathyroid hormone you give yourself every day for two years

Coordinated, Specialized Care Through a Dedicated Institute

Our orthopaedic specialists work together through our dedicated Penn State Bone and Joint Institute to provide multidisciplinary, tailored care and state-of-the-art treatments and technologies. All physicians at the institute are fellowship-trained and subspecialize in additional areas of orthopaedics.

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