Osteopenia is a loss of bone mineral density (BMD). Lower BMD indicates you have fewer minerals in your bones than you should, which makes bones weaker.


  • Medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism.

  • Medications such as prednisone and some treatments for cancer, heartburn, high blood pressure and seizures.

  • Hormonal changes during menopause.

  • Poor nutrition, especially a diet too low in calcium or vitamin D.

  • Surgery on the gastrointestinal system, which can affect the body’s ability to absorb needed nutrients and minerals.

  • Unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, and not exercising.


  • Osteopenia usually doesn’t cause any signs or symptoms until it progresses to osteoporosis.

  • Rarely, some people with osteopenia may experience bone pain or weakness.

  • The condition is usually detected when a person has a BMD screening.


To diagnose low bone mineral density, a healthcare provider will:

  • Ask questions about your family’s medical history, particularly osteoporosis.

  • Ask questions about your personal medical history, including medications you’ve taken, medical conditions you’ve had, lifestyle choices you’ve made, etc.

  • Conduct a physical examination.

  • Order a bone density test.

Bone density is measured with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). DEXA is a quick and painless imaging test that uses X-rays to determine whether you have healthy bones, osteopenia or osteoporosis. It provides a score called a T-score:

  • +1 to –1 indicates normal bone density.

  • –1 to –2.5 indicates osteopenia.

  • –2.5 or lower means osteoporosis.


There’s no cure for osteopenia, but it’s important to preserve bone density as much as possible. Treatment involves simple strategies to keep your bones as healthy and strong as possible and prevent progression to osteoporosis:

  • Calcium treatment.

  • Exercise.

  • Healthy diet.

  • Supplements for vitamin D deficiency and exposure to the sun to help your body absorb vitamin D.

diseases treatments health prevention osteopenia disorders skeletal-system

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