Signs and Symptoms of Osteoporosis

  • Clinically silent – Most women with osteoporosis have no symptoms. This is referred to as ‘clinically silent’. This lack of symptoms makes it important for doctors to screen women at risk for osteoporosis
  • Back pain/height loss  – Sometimes women may suffer from multiple small osteoporotic fractures of the spine (backbone) without realizing it. This can result in a loss of height and increasingly stooped position.
  • Fractures – Women with osteoporosis may present in the emergency room or doctor’s office with a new fracture. These may be low-impact fractures, occurring with a fall from a standing or seated position, or fragility fractures, occurring spontaneously without a fall or injury.4 Osteoporotic fractures most frequently involve the hip, spine (backbone), wrist and bones of the pelvis.

Screening for osteoporosis

Most women with osteoporosis have no symptoms; the process of bone thinning cannot be felt until it results in a fracture. Given the potentially devastating consequences of an osteoporotic fracture, physicians would ideally like to treat women before fractures occur, with the goal of fracture prevention. This early diagnosis requires the use of screening tests, which are tests given to a large number of seemingly healthy people to find individuals with ‘silent’ (asymptomatic) disease.

Recommendations for screening: Screening for osteoporosis involves a special test that measures bone mineral density (BMD). Screening is recommended for:

  • All women 65 years of age and older
  • Younger women with a history of a fragility (non-traumatic) fracture
  • Younger women with a history of low estrogen levels/premature menopause