Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones are thinner than normal. Bones get thinner over time or don’t grow as they should. The bones are then weaker and at higher risk of breaking. The condition is much more common in older adults. But it can also occur during childhood. In children, it’s called juvenile osteoporosis. It's important to find this condition early so that your child can be treated. This will help reduce the likelihood of your child breaking other bones over the years.
It’s most often caused by another health condition or it could be part of a genetic disorder. This is known as secondary osteoporosis. Some medicines may cause it. In some cases, no cause can be found. This is known as a rare form of osteoporosis called idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis (IJO).
Secondary osteoporosis can be caused by health conditions, such as:
Anorexia nervosa, malnutrition
Sickle cell anemia
Medicines that can cause osteoporosis include:
Other problems that may cause osteoporosis include:
Extreme lack of activity or immobility
Lack of calcium and vitamin D in the diet
Extreme exercising that leads to loss of menstrual periods (amenorrhea)
A child is more at risk for juvenile osteoporosis if they have any of these:
Use of high doses of corticosteroids
Family history of the condition
Lack of physical activity
History of certain chronic health conditions
The condition may not cause any symptoms. But a child with juvenile osteoporosis may have a history of broken bones.
A child with the rare idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis (IJO) may have symptoms, such as:
Lower back, hip, and foot pain
Hump of the spine (kyphosis)
The symptoms of juvenile osteoporosis may seem like other bone disorders or health problems. Make sure your child sees their healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Diagnosis of juvenile osteoporosis is often not made until the child has a broken bone. The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. They may also ask about your family’s health history. Your child will have a physical exam and tests, such as:
X-rays. This test uses a small amount of radiation to create images of tissues, bones, and organs. The bones may be X-rayed to see if they are thinned.
Bone density test. This test is done to look at bone mineral content and bone changes, such as bone loss. But normal test results for children can vary widely. It depends on what machine is used and how much experience the clinic has.
Blood tests. These are done to measure calcium and potassium levels in the blood.
For secondary osteoporosis, the cause of the disease may be treated. IJO often gets better on its own. In the meantime, it’s important to encourage healthy behaviors during a child's bone-building years. These may include:
Keeping a healthy body weight
Doing walking and other weight-bearing exercises
Reducing caffeine in their diet, such as from soda
Getting enough calcium and vitamin D through food, drinks, and supplements
Cutting back the use of certain medicines, such as steroids for chronic conditions, if possible
Other treatment for IJO may include:
Protecting the spine and other bones from breaks
Medicines to manage symptoms
Untreated, the condition can lead to:
Frequent broken bones
Curvature of the upper spine
Collapse of the rib cage
Managing juvenile osteoporosis is important for your child's bone health. Help your child adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes:
Cutting back on caffeine in their diet, such as from soda
Work with your child's healthcare providers to create an ongoing plan to manage your child’s condition.
Talk with your child's healthcare provider about ways to prevent osteoporosis if your child:
Has a chronic disease
Is on medicines that increases their risk for osteoporosis
Juvenile osteoporosis is a condition where the bones are thinner than normal. Bones get thinner over time or don’t grow as they should. The bones are then weaker and at higher risk of breaking.
It’s most often caused by another health condition, or it can be part of a genetic disorder. This is known as secondary osteoporosis. Some medicines may cause it. In some cases, no cause can be found. This is known as idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis (IJO).
The condition may not cause any symptoms. But a child with juvenile osteoporosis may have a history of broken bones. A child with IJO may also have lower back, hip, and foot pain, and other symptoms.
Treatment may include weight-bearing exercise, changes to a child’s diet, and calcium supplements.
Untreated, the condition can lead to broken bones and impaired growth.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new directions your provider gives you for your child.
Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.
Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
Know how you can contact your child’s healthcare provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.