What is Osteopenia

Osteopenia is a condition in which the bone density material (BMD) is lower than the normal. However it is an intermediate condition and cannot be classified as osteoporosis. Bone mineral density is a measurement to find out the density of the bone and their strength. If BMD level is lower than the normal than it results in osteopenia and, if this condition continues and the BMD level becomes very low than the normal level it is called as osteoporosis.

Causes of osteopenia:

With age the bone gradually becomes thinner and weak as the already existing bones are reabsorbed by the body much faster than they are made resulting in the weakening of the bones. This happens because it results in the loss of minerals, heaviness and structure.  The weak bones are more prone to breaking. The BMD level reaches its peak by the age of 30, so stronger and thicker your bone is at 30, it will take longer to develop osteopenia or osteoporosis.Osteopenia is not only the result of bone loss; it also happens if the person has low bone density naturally. It also develops due to wide variety of other reasons like the disease or some treatments. Women are more prone to osteopenia then the men as they have lower BMD peak when compared to men. Also, the loss of bone is more due to hormonal changes in women during menopause. A few other conditions which may result in osteopenia both in men and women are like, eating disorders or metabolism problem which interferes in the body’s capability of absorbing the vitamins and minerals; if the person has undergone chemotherapy or used medicines containing steroids to treat certain conditions; exposure to radiation also results in osteopenia sometimes.A family history of osteoporosis, being thin, less physical activity, smoking, drinking alcohol are few other reasons which may result in osteopenia and with time osteoporosis.


The worst thing about osteopenia is that it has no symptoms. There is no pain due to osteopenia but the bone becomes thinner showing no external symptoms. As the bone density becomes less it is more prone to breaking.


Osteopenia can be detected by conducting a bone mineral density test, which is more commonly done to detect osteoporosis. The other test which is considered more accurate is called dual energy X-ray absorptiometery (DEXA). The efficiency of this test is so much that it can even detect a bone loss of 2%. It is a form of X-ray but standard X-ray cannot be used to detect bone loss as it is not that very sensitive to detect the bone loss as DEXA.