Updated June 2017



Alcoholism. A disease characterized by a dependency on alcohol. Excessive alcohol use can have a negative impact on bone health.

Amenorrhea. The abnormal absence of menstrual periods. Early amenorrhea caused by overtraining can cause bones to become brittle and break.

Anorexia nervosa. An eating disorder characterized by an irrational fear of weight gain. Individuals with anorexia nervosa can experience nutritional and hormonal problems that negatively impact bone health.

Arthritis. A general term for conditions that cause inflammation (swelling) of the joints and surrounding tissues. Some forms of arthritis may occur simultaneously with osteoporosis and Paget's disease.

Asthma. A chronic lung disease. People with asthma tend to be at increased risk for osteoporosis, especially in the spine.


Balance. The ability to maintain your body’s stability while moving or standing still. Along with flexibility and strength, improving balance can significantly reduce the risk of falling.

Bisphosphonates. Drugs used to treat osteoporosis and other bone diseases.

Bone. A living, growing tissue made mostly of collagen.

Bone biopsy. A test in which a small sample of tissue for analysis is taken from bone.

Bone mineral density (BMD) testing. A test that measures bone strength and fracture risk.

Bone remodeling. The process of bone renewal through resorption (where old bone is removed from the skeleton) and formation (where new bone is added to the skeleton).

Bone scan. A nuclear scanning test primarily used to help diagnose a number of conditions relating to bones including Paget’s disease.

Breast cancer. A disease in which abnormal tumor cells develop in the breast. Women who have had breast cancer may be at increased risk for osteoporosis and fracture because of possible reduced levels of estrogen, chemotherapy or surgery, or early menopause.


Calcitonin. A hormone involved in calcium regulation that is used to treat osteoporosis and Paget’s disease.

Calcium. A mineral that is an essential nutrient for bone health. It is also needed for the heart, muscles and nerves to function properly and for blood to clot.

Celiac disease. An inherited intestinal disorder in which the body cannot tolerate gluten, which is found in foods made with wheat, rye, and barley. Bone loss is a complication of untreated celiac disease.

Collagen. A family of fibrous proteins that are components of osteogenesis imperfecta is caused by a genetic defect that affects the body's production of collagen.

Constipation. A decrease in frequency of stools or bowel movements with hardening of the stool. Some forms of osteogenesis imperfecta are associated with increased risk for constipation caused by increased perspiration, growth impairment, pelvic malformation, and diminished physical activity.


Diabetes. A disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy. Having diabetes may increase osteoporosis risk.

Dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA). A common test for measuring bone mineral density. It is painless, a bit like having an x-ray, but with much less exposure to radiation.


Endocrinologist. A doctor who treats the endocrine system, which are the glands and hormones that help control the body’s metabolic activity. In addition to osteoporosis, endocrinologists treat diabetes and diseases of the thyroid and pituitary glands.

Estrogen therapy. The use of the female hormone estrogen (sometimes combined with another hormone, progestin) to treat osteoporosis.


Family doctors. Doctors who have a broad range of training that includes internal medicine, gynecology, and pediatrics. They place special emphasis on caring for an individual or family on a long-term, continuing basis.

Flexibility. The range of motion of a muscle or group of muscles. Along with balance and strength, improving flexibility can significantly reduce the risk of falling.

Fracture. Broken bone. People with osteoporosis, osteogenesis imperfecta, and Paget's disease are at greater risk for bone fracture.


Geriatricians. Family doctors or internists who have received additional training on the aging process and the conditions and diseases that often occur among the elderly.

Glucocorticoids. Steroid medications such as prednisone or cortisone used to reduce inflammation in many diseases. Bone loss is a very common side effect of these medications.

Gynecologist. A doctor who diagnoses and treats conditions of the female reproductive system and associated disorders.


Hypercalciuria. A disorder in which an excessive amount of calcium is lost through the urine.

Hypertension. High blood pressure.

Hypogonadism. Abnormally low levels of sex hormone. Low levels of testosterone is sometimes a secondary cause of osteoporosis in men.


Idiopathic. No identifiable cause. Osteoporosis may be characterized as idiopathic, particularly in children and men.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Diseases, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, that cause swelling in the intestine and/or digestive track, which may result in diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and weight loss. People with IBD are at an increased risk for osteoporosis.

Internist. A doctor trained in general internal medicine. These doctors diagnose and treat many diseases.


Joint laxity. Loose joints. A common symptom in people with osteogenesis imperfecta.

Juvenile osteoporosis. Osteoporosis in children and adolescents.


Lactose intolerance. Inability to digest lactose, the natural sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Individuals with lactose intolerance who avoid dairy products may be at increased risk for osteoporosis.

Lupus. A chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when the body's immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. Also called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems including joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, heart, and lungs. People with lupus are at increased risk for osteoporosis.


Menopause. The cessation of menstruation in women. Bone health in women often deteriorates after menopause due to a decrease in the female hormone estrogen.

MRI. Magnetic resonance imaging. Unlike an x ray, which shows only bony structures, an MRI scan produces clear pictures of soft tissues, too, such as ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). A class of medications available over the counter or with a prescription that ease pain and inflammation. Includes aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.


Orthopaedic surgeons. Doctors trained in the care of patients with musculoskeletal conditions such as congenital skeletal malformations, bone fractures and infections, and metabolic problems.

Orthopaedist. A doctor who specializes in bone and joint disorders.

Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI). Osteogenesis imperfecta is a genetic disorder characterized by bones that break easily, often from little or no apparent cause.

Osteopenia. Low bone mass.

Osteoporosis. Literally means "porous bone." This disease is characterized by too little bone formation, excessive bone loss, or a combination of both, leading to bone fragility and an increased risk of fractures of the hip, spine and wrist.


Paget's disease of bone. A bone disease that causes bones to grow larger and weaker than normal.

Parathyroid hormone. A form of human parathyroid hormone (PTH) is approved for the treatment of osteoporosis.

Peak bone mass. The amount of bone tissue in the skeleton. Bone tissue can keep growing until around age 30. At that point, bones have reached their maximum strength and density, known as peak bone mass.

Periodontitis. A chronic infection that affects the gums and the bones that support the teeth. Bacteria and the body’s own immune system break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. Teeth may eventually become loose, fall out, or have to be removed.

Physiatrists. Doctors who specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation. They evaluate and treat patients with impairments, disabilities, or pain arising from various medical problems, including bone fractures. Physiatrists focus on restoring the physical, psychological, social, and vocational functioning of the individual.

Prostate cancer. A disease in which abnormal tumor cells develop in the prostate gland. Men who receive hormone deprivation therapy for prostate cancer have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis and broken bones.


RANK ligand (RANKL) inhibitors. A type of drug approved for the treatment of osteoporosis.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). An inflammatory disease that causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints. It occurs when the immune system, which normally defends the body from invading organisms, attacks the membrane lining the joints. Studies have found an increased risk of bone loss and fracture in individuals with RA.

Rheumatologists. Doctors who diagnose and treat diseases of the bones, joints, muscles, and tendons, including arthritis and collagen diseases.

Risk factors. Factors that increase the chances of having a certain illness or disease. Click here for more information on the risk factors for osteoporosis.


Scoliosis. A sideways curvature of the spine.

Secondary osteoporosis. Osteoporosis caused by an underlying medical disorder or by medications used to treat the disorder.

Selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM). A type of drug used to prevent or treat postmenopausal osteoporosis.


T-score. The extent to which an individual’s bone density differs from the peak bone mineral density of a healthy 30-year old adult.

TENS. Transcutaneous (through the skin) electrical nerve stimulation.


Vitamin A. A family of fat-soluble compounds that play an important role in vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, and cell differentiation. Too much vitamin A (in the form of retinol) has been linked to bone loss and an increase in the risk of hip fracture.

Vitamin D. A nutrient that the body needs to absorb calcium.


Weight–bearing exercise. Exercise that forces you to work against gravity, such as walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, playing tennis, dancing, and lifting weights. This type of exercise is best for strengthening bone.


Z–score. The extent to which an individual’s bone density differs from that of a typical individual of the same age, gender, and weight.