Many people do not have noticeable symptoms of osteoporosis until they experience an injury or fracture. However, early signs of the condition can include receding gums, weakened grip strength, and brittle fingernails.

Osteoporosis affects the bones and results in a decrease in bone mineral density and bone mass. This can increase the likelihood of bone fractures and injuries. Issues can occur in any bone, but commonly occur in the hips, spine, and wrists.

An estimated 10 million people aged 50 years and older have osteoporosis in the United States. Osteoporosis is a progressive condition, and many people may not notice symptoms until they experience a fracture. However, some individuals may notice early symptoms that could indicate osteoporosis.

This article discusses possible early symptoms of osteoporosis, late-stage symptoms, risk factors, and potential prevention strategies.

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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Health experts may refer to osteoporosis as a silent disease as many people do not have noticeable symptoms. Many individuals may not realize they have osteoporosis until they experience a broken bone.

However, some potential early signs may occur alongside osteoporosis and can indicate the development of the condition. These may include:

  • Receding gums: Bone loss may occur in the jawbone, leading to tooth loss and gum disease.
  • Weakened grip strength: There is an association between the grip strength of the hands and bone mineral density of the hand bones. As osteoporosis causes a reduction in bone mineral density, this may lead to a reduction in grip strength. Additionally, low grip strength is a risk factor for osteoporosis in certain individuals, such as postmenopausal females.
  • Brittle fingernails: According to 2022 research, osteoporosis can contribute to slow nail growth, which can lead to the fingernails becoming brittle.

As osteoporosis progresses, a person may develop further symptoms due to further bone mass and mineral density loss.

Late-stage symptoms of osteoporosis can include:

  • gradual loss of height
  • poor or hunched posture
  • back pain, neck pain, or both
  • spine fractures

Additionally, as the bones affected by osteoporosis become more fragile over time, they are more prone to damage. As such, a person may experience a fracture from minor falls or usual movements that would not typically result in a broken bone.

Certain factors can increase the risk of a person developing osteoporosis. Some of these factors may be things a person can change, known as modifiable risk factors. Nonmodifiable factors are factors a person cannot change or control.

Some modifiable risk factors of osteoporosis include:

Nonmodifiable risk factors for osteoporosis may include:

There are strategies a person can try to help maintain their bone strength and reduce their risk of fractures and falls. This can include:

Changes to diet

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) recommends that a person eat the following foods to prevent weakened bones and support bone health:

A person may also purchase over-the-counter calcium and vitamin D supplements to ensure they are receiving the recommended daily intake.

Changes to lifestyle

The NIA also recommends making certain changes to a person’s lifestyle. This can include reducing or stopping smoking and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, if necessary.

Increasing physical activity

A person can reduce their risk of developing osteoporosis by doing low impact weight-bearing exercises. These can help to build and strengthen the bones. Examples include:

  • jogging
  • hiking
  • strength training
  • walking
  • climbing the stairs
  • tennis
  • dancing

Reducing the risk of falls

A person who may be prone to falls can take certain precautions to reduce their risk. These may include:

  • using a cane or walker, if necessary, for more stability
  • wearing nonslip shoes that provide support
  • avoiding walking on slippery sidewalks
  • keeping the living space free from objects that could cause trips or falls
  • using a nonslip mat in the shower or bathtub
  • refraining from walking in socks, slippers, or stockings that may slip
  • adding more lights in the rooms to avoid tripping over an object

Osteoporosis is a bone condition that results in a reduction of bone mass and mineral density. As such, a person with osteoporosis is more likely to experience bone fractures and injuries.

Many people do not often notice early signs of the condition. However, while some signs are not part of the process of developing osteoporosis, certain symptoms may indicate the early onset of osteoporosis. These can include receding gums, weakened grip strength, and brittle fingernails.

A person may consider trying to reduce their risk of the condition. This can involve altering their diet to include foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, reducing smoking and alcohol consumption, and doing more weight-bearing exercises.