Osteoporosis is a progressive condition in which bone density is lost, or there is insufficient bone formation, thereby weakening the bones and making them more susceptible to fractures. Although much more common in older adults, especially women in menopause and after, osteoporosis can also occur during childhood. The average age of onset is between 8 and 14 years, but it can occur in younger children during growth spurts. Most often, osteoporosis during childhood is caused by an underlying medical condition (the disease is then called secondary osteoporosis) or a genetic disorder (such as osteogenesis imperfecta). However, sometimes, no cause can be found and the disease is categorized as a very rare form of osteoporosis, called idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis (IJO).
In children, the following causes may be attributed to the different forms of osteoporosis:
Persons with osteoporosis may not develop any symptoms and the disease, therefore, is often called silent. However, children with the rare idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis (IJO) may develop lower back, hip, and foot pain. In addition, IJO is sometimes coupled with physical deformities, including abnormal curvature of the thoracic spine (kyphosis), sunken chest, or a limp. The symptoms of juvenile osteoporosis may resemble other bone disorders or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
Diagnosis of juvenile osteoporosis is often not made until the child has a broken bone. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for juvenile osteoporosis may include:
Specific treatment for juvenile osteoporosis will be determined by your child's physician based on:
The effects of this disease can best be managed with early diagnosis and treatment. In secondary osteoporosis, treatment may include treating the underlying cause of the disease. Some of the methods used to treat osteoporosis are also the methods used to help prevent it from ever developing. Treatment may include:
Consult your child's physician regarding a medication regimen.
In the case of idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis, treatment may not be necessary. IJO often resolves itself spontaneously. Nevertheless, managing the bone loss is important during a child's important bone-building years. Treatment for IJO may include: