Osteoporosis is a serious metabolic bone disorder that results in fractures of the wrist, hip and vertebrae. These fractures frequently occur with little or no trauma. Osteoporosis is seen more frequently in women than men. While the pathogenesis of osteoporosis is incompletely understood at this time, certain risk factors are emerging as important. Among the more important of these are family history, low calcium intake, early menopause and sedentary lifestyle. Other suggested risk factors include high intakes of protein, alcohol and caffeine; low body weight; exercise-induced amenorrhea; and cigarette smoking. No single therapy or combination of therapies for osteoporosis has proven to be uniformly successful. Indeed, once fractures occur, full restoration of the skeleton may not be possible. Currently, calcium, exercise and estrogen form the treatment for osteoporosis. When these conservative measures are ineffective or inadequate, treatment with fluoride, calcitonin, vitamin D or anabolic steroids may be attempted. Research to clearly identify and quantify risk factors and find an effective treatment for osteoporosis continues.