Osteoporosis: Can kids get it too?

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Osteoporosis: Can kids get it too?

Question

My 11-year-old daughter has been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Is this rare in children?

No name given
Minnesota

Answer

Osteoporosis in children (juvenile osteoporosis) is rare. When it does occur, it is usually due to a medication or underlying medical condition. Doctors refer to this as secondary osteoporosis.

Causes of secondary osteoporosis may include:

  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder characterized by bones that break easily, often from no apparent cause
  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Cushing's syndrome, a condition in which your body makes too much of the hormone cortisol
  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Corticosteroid medications
  • Immunosuppressive drugs
  • Prolonged immobilization
  • Rickets (osteomalacia), a severe vitamin D deficiency

The most common sign or symptom of juvenile osteoporosis is a fracture that occurs with minimal trauma. A doctor can diagnose a fracture by X-rays of the affected bone. Treatment of secondary osteoporosis is directed at the underlying cause.

In rare cases, the cause of juvenile osteoporosis can't be determined. Doctors refer to this as idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis. This rare form of osteoporosis typically occurs in previously healthy children between the ages of 4 and 16. Signs and symptoms include pain in the lower back, hips and feet, and difficulty walking. There's no specific treatment for idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis. However, most children with this condition have a complete recovery of bone tissue within two to four years after their diagnosis.

Last Updated: 02/03/2006
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