Osteoporosis is a bone disease that causes bones to become weak, porous, and fragile. While females are more prone to osteoporosis, it can affect males too.

As bones become less dense, they weaken and are more likely to break. For this reason, a person with osteoporosis may experience a bone fracture from a fall, minor bump, or sneezing.

This article explores osteoporosis in males, including symptoms, causes, risk factors, treatments, and more.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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The International Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that 1 in 3 females and 1 in 5 males will have osteoporosis in their lifetime after the age of 50.

A 2022 study suggests that osteoporosis is often underrecognized and undertreated in males. This is despite the fact that up to 25% of people over the age of 50 who experienced fractures are male.

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion notes that about 10 million people aged 50 years or older in the United States have osteoporosis. Around 2 million of these people are males.

In addition, about 16 million males are at an increased risk of osteoporosis due to low bone mass.

Learn more about how common osteoporosis is.

Many people with osteoporosis are most likely unaware they have the condition because they may not experience any symptoms until there is a fracture.

Some common symptoms may include:

  • severe back pain
  • loss of height
  • spine malformation
  • easily occurring bone fractures
  • limited mobility or an inability to move a limb
  • an inability to put weight on a leg

Fractures most commonly occur in the wrists, hips, and spinal bones, but they can happen in any bone.

Learn more about the symptoms of osteoporosis.

Experts typically do not know what causes osteoporosis in males.

However, it is possible that testosterone may play a role. Testosterone maintains bone density, and males who produce low testosterone levels may be at greater risk of osteoporosis.

Other causes may include:

  • alcohol misuse
  • certain medications, such as corticosteroid tablets
  • hypogonadism
  • smoking

Learn more about osteoporosis.

The following risk factors can increase a person’s risk of osteoporosis:

  • Age: As a person ages, bone loss occurs fast, while new bone growth is slower. Over time, this can weaken bone cells, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. After age 70, the risk of osteoporosis increases in males.
  • Body size: Males with thin bones may have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis than those with larger bones.
  • Race: White males are more likely to have the condition than African American and Mexican American males.
  • Family history: People with a family history of osteoporosis may be more likely to experience it. Genes may play a role.
  • Diet: A lifestyle of excessive dieting with low calcium, vitamin D, and protein can increase the risk of fractures, bone loss, and osteoporosis.
  • Hormonal imbalance: Conditions that cause low testosterone levels can predispose a person to an increased risk of osteoporosis.
  • Medications: Long-termdrug use of some medications may affect the mineral absorption of bones. Examples include glucocorticoids, antiepileptic medicines, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
  • Other medical conditions: Some medical conditions, such as anorexia, HIV, AIDS, and rheumatoid arthritis, can increase the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Lifestyle: Not getting enough physical activity may increase bone loss and increase the risk of falls.

It is best for a person to contact a doctor if they have concerns about the risk factors for osteoporosis.

If a person requires treatment, a doctor will consider a person’s age, sex, bone fracture risk, and bone density result to create the safest, most effective treatment plan.

Treatment aims to reduce pain, prevent fractures, maintain bone health, and slow the progression of osteoporosis.

Possible treatments include:

  • Bisphosphonates: Bisphosphonates maintain bone density by slowing down the rate the body breaks down bones.
  • Parathyroid hormones: Parathyroid hormones stimulate the growth of new bone cells to replace lost ones.
  • Biological medications: Biological medications slow down how quickly bone breaks down and speeds up the building of new bone.
  • Calcium and vitamin D supplements: Calcium and vitamin D dietary supplements can help build and maintain strong bones.

Learn more about medications for osteoporosis.

To diagnose osteoporosis in males, the doctor may begin by performing a physical examination, asking questions about symptoms, and taking a full medical history.

They may then order a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). It is a noninvasive procedure that measures the bone mass density of the skeleton at various sites prone to fracture.

This can help them reach an accurate diagnosis and rule out other possible causes.

Learn more about DEXA.

It is best for a person to contact a doctor if they have any concerns about osteoporosis or if they experience symptoms of a fracture.

Learn about the symptoms of fractures.

The main complications of osteoporosis are fractures. Certain fractures, such as hip fractures, can reduce mobility or lead to disability.

In some people, a hip fracture can also increase the risk of mortality.

Contacting a doctor as soon as a person has concerns about osteoporosis and beginning treatment as early as possible may help reduce the risk of complications.

Learn more about osteoporosis and fractures.

Osteoporosis may be preventable for some people. A person can reduce the risk of osteoporosis by:

  • limiting alcohol consumption
  • quitting smoking, if applicable
  • getting enough regular physical activity or exercise
  • getting enough vitamin D, calcium, and protein

A doctor can provide a person with more information on ways they can lower their risk of osteoporosis.

Learn more about how diet can help prevent osteoporosis.

Here are some frequently asked questions about osteoporosis in males.

At what age can males get osteoporosis?

Males can get osteoporosis at any age. However, a person’s risk increases with age. Males may be more prone to osteoporosis after the age of 70.

Should a man have a bone density test?

If a male is at high risk of osteoporosis, a doctor may recommend a bone density test. A doctor may also order the test if a person has a possible fracture.

Although osteoporosis is more common in females, the condition can also affect males.

The cause of osteoporosis in males is unclear. However, certain factors may increase a male’s risk of the condition, such as being over the age of 70, having thinner bones, having a low testosterone level, and taking certain medications.

A person can reduce their risk of osteoporosis by getting regular physical activity, getting enough calcium and vitamin D, and avoiding or limiting smoking and alcohol consumption.

It is best for a person to contact a doctor if they have concerns about osteoporosis. The doctor can confirm the diagnosis and advise on suitable treatments, where necessary.