The good news is that a child's skeleton is dynamic. Unlike adults with osteoporosis, who have to work with the bone density they have, children are laying down bone every day, so there's a lot we can do for them.
--Catherine Gordon, MD
The term “osteoporosis” tends to conjure up images of an elderly person hunched over a cane. So when you’re told your child has juvenile osteoporosis, it’s hard to reconcile those images with your vigorous, seemingly healthy child who’s all over the soccer field. The good news is that the long-term outlook for children with juvenile osteoporosis is usually bright.
Here’s what you need to know about juvenile osteoporosis:
Osteoporosis is a progressive condition that weakens bones and makes them more susceptible to break. This may be due to loss of bone density from increased bone resorption (or breakdown) or insufficient bone formation. The disease is much more common in older adults, especially women in menopause and after, but can also occur during childhood.
- The average age of onset of juvenile osteoporosis is when a child is between ages 8 and 14, but it can also affect younger children during growth spurts.
- Most often, juvenile osteoporosis is caused by an underlying medical condition, such as anorexia nervosa or kidney disease. In these cases, we refer to the disease as secondary osteoporosis.
- Juvenile osteoporosis can be related to a genetic disorder, such as osteogenesis imperfecta, a condition present at birth that causes extremely fragile bones.
- Sometimes, it can be traced to infancy, when many babies don't get enough calcium or vitamin D, a critical vitamin that helps bones absorb calcium. Forty percent of the children we see for juvenile osteoporosis have vitamin D deficiency.
- The condition is highly treatable, and may include physical therapy and/or medications to manage the symptoms and potentially increase bone density.
- The long-term outlook for children with juvenile osteoporosis is usually very good. During puberty, children with low bone density usually make up most, if not all, of early childhood bone loss.
How Children’s Hospital Boston approaches juvenile osteoporosis
Specialists in our Bone Health Program provide comprehensive evaluations of children and adolescents who have, or are at risk for, low bone density. Children and adolescents with low bone density have a wide variety of needs, and we strive to provide empathetic and compassionate care. Since 2000, we’ve treated thousands of children with juvenile osteoporosis and other conditions that relate to low bone density, with great success.
We specialize in innovative, family-centered care. From your first visit, you’ll work with a team of professionals who are committed to supporting all of your family’s physical and psychosocial needs.
|Our diagnostics center|
At Children’s, we evaluate bone density through our DXA Center (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry), which is the gold standard test in the industry.
Juvenile Osteoporosis: Reviewed by Catherine Gordon, MD
© Children’s Hospital Boston, 2010