Diseases and Conditions that May Cause Bone Loss

There are many health problems that may increase your chance of getting osteoporosis. If you have any of the following diseases or conditions that can cause bone loss, talk to your doctor about what you can do to keep your bones healthy. In some cases, when you treat a health problem that causes bone loss, you can also improve your bone health. Diseases and conditions that may cause bone loss include:

Autoimmune Disorders

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). RA is a form of arthritis that is associated with an increased risk for osteoporosis. Steroid medicines, which are used to treat RA, can also increase the risk of osteoporosis.

Lupus. People with lupus may need to take medicines, including steroids, to control their symptoms. These medicines can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis.

Multiple sclerosis

Ankylosing spondylitis

Digestive and Gastrointestinal Disorders

Celiac Disease. People with celiac disease have trouble digesting foods with gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. People with celiac disease also have problems absorbing nutrients, including calcium and vitamin D. Celiac disease doesn’t always cause noticeable symptoms. Ask your doctor if you should have a test for celiac disease.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Different forms of IBD, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, can cause bone loss. Steroid medicines are often used to treat these conditions, which can also contribute to bone loss.  People with IBD may also have trouble absorbing the calcium and vitamin D needed for healthy bones.

Weight Loss Surgery. Weight loss procedures such as gastric bypass surgery can help people lose a large amount of weight in a short period of time. This weight loss may lead to bone loss. These procedures can also interfere with the body’s ability to properly absorb the vitamins and minerals needed for bone health.

Gastrectomy

Gastrointestinal bypass procedures

Endocrine/Hormonal Disorders

Diabetes. People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. While type 1 diabetes seems to cause the greatest amount of bone loss, people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of breaking bones. 

Hyperparathyroidism is a condition in which the parathyroid glands (two pairs of small glands located behind the thyroid in the neck) produce too much parathyroid hormone (PTH). Having too much PTH causes bone loss. This condition is more common in women after menopause. A simple blood test can detect this problem.

Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This can lead to weak muscles and fragile bones. Bone loss can also occur if a person takes too much thyroid hormone medicine for an underactive thyroid.

Cushing’s syndrome

Thyrotoxicosis

Missing Periods. If you are a young woman and don’t have regular periods, this could mean low estrogen levels. There could be many reasons for this, such as exercising too much or eating so little that you become too thin. Other causes of irregular periods could include disorders of the ovaries or pituitary. Loss of estrogen and extreme thinness can harm bones and affect other body systems. Young women who don’t have regular periods should talk to their healthcare provider about their bone health.

Premature Menopause

Testosterone and Estrogen Levels in Men. Testosterone protects bone. Very low levels of testosterone suggest that there is an underlying disorder that needs to be evaluated. Estrogen levels in men are also important. Low levels of these hormones can lead to bone loss. A number of factors can cause levels to be low, such as an eating disorder or drinking too much alcohol. A blood test can tell you if your hormone levels are normal.

Hematologic/Blood Disorders

Leukemia and Lymphoma. Many of the medicines, including chemotherapy, used to treat these two forms of cancer can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis.

Multiple Myeloma. Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the bone marrow. Its first symptoms may be back pain and broken bones in the spine. Blood and urine tests can detect the problem. Other forms of cancer that affect bones or bone marrow can also cause broken bones.

Sickle Cell Disease. People with sickle cell disease may need to take medicines, including steroids, to control their symptoms. These medicines can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis.

Blood and bone marrow disorders

Thalassemia  

Neurological/Nervous System Disorders

Stroke, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS) reduce mobility. People with these conditions are more likely to be inactive, fall and have low vitamin D levels.

Spinal cord injuries

Mental Illness

Depression. Research suggests that people with depression are more likely to have low bone density or osteoporosis. This link is probably due to multiple factors, including the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) medicines. More studies will help us better understand the relationship between depression and osteoporosis.

Eating Disorders. In women with anorexia nervosa, estrogen levels decrease to such an extent that menstrual periods either become irregular or stop. This drop in estrogen can cause bone loss and osteoporosis. In addition to causing low estrogen levels, anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders can lead to bone loss in females and males for other complex reasons.  

Cancer

Breast Cancer. Aromatase inhibitors are commonly used to treat women with estrogen-sensitive breast cancer. Because these medicines reduce the amount of estrogen in the body, they can lead to bone loss and broken bones.

Prostate Cancer. Androgen deprivation therapy is commonly used to treat men with prostate cancer. Because these medicines reduce the amount of male sex hormones in the body, they can lead to bone loss and broken bones.

Other Diseases and Conditions

AIDS/HIV

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema

Female athlete triad (includes loss of menstrual periods, an eating disorder and excessive exercise)

Kidney disease that is chronic and long lasting

Liver disease that is severe, including biliary cirrhosis

Organ Transplants. People who have organ transplants must take medicines to prevent their bodies from rejecting their new organs. Some of these drugs can weaken bones.

Polio and post-polio syndrome

Poor diet, including malnutrition

Scoliosis

Weight loss

Note:  This list may not include all of the diseases and conditions that may cause bone loss. Talk to your doctor and ask if any of the conditions you have may be causing bone loss.

Related

Recovering from Falls

Even with your best efforts to protect your bones, it’s still possible to break a bone. People most often break bones in the spine, hip or wrist. Regardless of the bone you break, regaining strength and returning to daily activities takes time.

Medicines that May Cause Bone Loss

Some medicines can be harmful to your bones, even if you need to take them for another condition. Talk with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of any medicines you take and about how they may affect your bones.

Having a Bone Density Test

A bone density test can help you find out if you have osteoporosis or if you should be concerned about your bones. A machine is used to measure your bone density by estimating the amount of bone in your hip, spine and sometimes other bones.