Epidemiology, etiology, and diagnosis of osteoporosis

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006 Feb;194(2 Suppl):S3-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2005.08.047.


Osteoporosis, a major public health problem, is becoming increasingly prevalent with the aging of the world population. Osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder characterized by compromised bone strength, which predisposes the individual to an increased risk of fractures of the hip, spine, and other skeletal sites. The clinical consequences and economic burden of this disease call for measures to assess individuals who are at high risk to allow for appropriate intervention. Many risk factors are associated with osteoporotic fracture, including low peak bone mass, hormonal factors, the use of certain drugs (eg, glucocorticoids), cigarette smoking, low physical activity, low intake of calcium and vitamin D, race, small body size, and a personal or a family history of fracture. All of these factors should be taken into account when assessing the risk of fracture and determining whether further treatment is required. Because osteoporotic fracture risk is higher in older women than in older men, all postmenopausal women should be evaluated for signs of osteoporosis during routine physical examinations. Radiologic laboratory assessments of bone mineral density generally should be reserved for patients at highest risk, including all women over the age of 65, younger postmenopausal women with risk factors, and all postmenopausal women with a history of fractures. The evaluation of biochemical markers of bone turnover has been useful in clinical research. However, the predictive factor of these measurements is not defined clearly, and these findings should not be used as a replacement for bone density testing. Together, clinical assessment of osteoporotic risk factors and objective measures of bone mineral density can help to identify patients who will benefit from intervention and, thus, can potentially reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with osteoporosis-associated fractures in this population.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Bone Density
  • Bone Resorption / physiopathology
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / epidemiology
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Osteoclasts / physiology
  • Osteoporosis / complications
  • Osteoporosis / diagnosis
  • Osteoporosis / epidemiology*
  • Osteoporosis / physiopathology
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / complications
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / diagnosis
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology