Osteoporosis is a disorder where the bones become weakened by loss of mass. This leads to an increased risk of broken bones (fractures) as the result of even a gentle impact of the bone. The thinning of the bones does not, in itself, cause much in the way of symptoms. It does, however, lead to a risk of broken bones.
When the bones are significantly thinned (low in bone mass) people are more likely to break their wrist, hip, or other bones. Even a cough or a sneeze can cause a fracture of a rib or the partial collapse of one of the bones of the spine (vertebra). Any bone is more at risk of fracturing with osteoporosis.
Some loss of bone mass is a natural part of the aging process. Most people lose one third of their bone mass by the age of seventy. Gradual crumbling of the bones in the spine can also occur over time and cause chronic back pain or pain in the nerves running down the arms or legs.
Osteoporosis is not usually diagnosed until a person suffers a mysterious fracture. Otherwise it is typically diagnosed using bone x-rays bone scan or bone density tests. In some cases, a bone biopsy may be done to confirm the diagnosis.