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.
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.
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
- Weakened grip strength: There is an
associationbetween 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 factorfor 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
Some modifiable risk factors of osteoporosis
- a diet that lacks certain vitamins such as vitamin K and calcium
- cigarette smoking
- a lack of physical activity
- weight loss or low body mass index (BMI)
- frequently consuming alcohol
- air pollution
Nonmodifiable risk factors for osteoporosis may include:
- a history of falls and fractures
- older age
- a person’s sex, as females are at a higher risk of experiencing osteoporosis
- being white
- a family history of osteoporosis
- previous surgery to
removethe ovaries before menstruation stopped naturally
- long-term use of certain medications such as corticosteroids, proton pump inhibitors, and antiepileptic drugs
- altered levels of hormones in the body, such as low levels of estrogen in females and testosterone in males
- living with other
medical conditions, such as HIV, rheumatoid arthritis, and anorexia nervosa
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
- foods high in calcium, such as
- foods with vitamin D
- foods high in protein
A person may also purchase over-the-counter calcium and vitamin D
Changes to lifestyle
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
- strength training
- climbing the stairs
Reducing the risk of falls
A person who may be prone to falls can take certain precautions to reduce their risk. These
- 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.