OsteoporosisOsteoporosis Signs and Symptoms

Let's Talk About the Signs and Symptoms of Osteoporosis

This brittle bone condition is tricky to spot. Learn what to look for so you can rest easy...or get yourself to the doctor if need be.

    Our Pro PanelOsteoporosis Signs and Symptoms

    We went to some of the best bone health experts in the country to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Stephen Honig, M.D.

    Stephen Honig, M.D.Rheumatologist and Director

    Osteoporosis Center at NYU Langone
    New York, NY
    Kendall Moseley, M.D.

    Kendall Moseley, M.D.Medical Director

    Johns Hopkins Metabolic Bone & Osteoporosis Center
    Baltimore, MD
    Eliana Cardozo, D.O.

    Eliana Cardozo, D.O.Physiatrist and Assistant Professor

    Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital
    New York, NY

    Frequently Asked QuestionsOsteoporosis Signs and Symptoms

    What are the early symptoms of osteoporosis?

    Unlike many other conditions, there are no early signs. For most people, the first symptom is a bone break. You may have read about receding gums, brittle nails, and weak handgrips being early signs of osteoporosis. But our experts say they’re usually not indicative, and these can be symptoms of many other conditions.

    What causes osteoporosis?

    The root cause of osteoporosis is low bone density. So, how do you get that? Your bone density is mostly inherited (about 80 percent is due to genetics), but factors such as your gender, weight, diet, exercise habits, and lifestyle factors such as whether or not you smoke or drink can determine how strong and resilient your bones will be as you age.

    What is the difference between osteoporosis and osteopenia?

    Osteopenia is a precursor to osteoporosis. If you’re diagnosed with the condition, it means you have low bone density, but not low enough to be osteoporotic. A diagnosis doesn’t mean you’re destined for osteoporosis, especially if you know how to improve your bone density. Prevention of osteoporosis comes down to: weight-bearing exercise to boost bone formation; good nutrition (especially a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D or supplements); quitting smoking; drinking less; reducing your salt and caffeine intake (both can decrease calcium levels); and in some cases, meds. Doctors don’t routinely treat osteopenia, but if your bone density scan shows you’re dangerously close to osteoporosis and at high risk for fractures, you may be given a treatment plan.

    Is a routine bone density test covered by insurance?

    A screening for osteoporosis (that’s ICD-10 in insurance billing lingo) is covered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for women over 60 with risk factors. The United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), which makes guidelines that health insurance plans typically follow, recommends screenings at age 65. So if you’re under 60 and don’t have any risk factors, a baseline bone density scan may not be covered. Before you have a test, call your healthcare provider, and ask your physician about the out-of-pocket cost.

    Krista Bennett DeMaio

    Krista Bennett DeMaio


    Krista Bennett DeMaio is a health and beauty writer living in Huntington, NY with her husband and three daughters.