Osteoporosis at the Age of 34
Q: I am 34 years old. I have just been diagnosed with osteoporosis and have
been put on Didrocal. My doctor told me that the bone density test result was
very disturbing. Last year, my mother was diagnosed with osteoporosis and I
had just asked for safety's sake to have my bone density tested.
How does a 34-year-old woman, who is active and doesn't drink alcohol, get
osteoporosis? My doctor told me that it looks like I have had it for many years.
All the information I have seen so far is for women over the age of 50. Can
you help me find information for women my age? I know what it is and what it
does to bones. But as to why I would get it at such an early age and have it
for many years is baffling.
Thank you for your help.
Dr. Donnica: I am sorry to hear about your situation. The good news
is that you identified this problem early on and are taking active early steps
to address it. Most 34-year-old women do not get bone density tests!
The questions you have addressed to me must be addressed to your physician.
While I can give you some insight as to why a 34-year-old woman in general might
have very low bone mass (osteopenia) or osteoporosis, I can't tell you why it
has affected YOU without knowing your complete history and having done a thorough
physical exam. I can suggest that genetics probably has a lot to do with it,
especially since your mom was just diagnosed with osteoporosis. If you or your
mom have sisters, I recommend that they get bone mineral density tests as well.
The first question you must ask your doctor is whether you have osteoporosis
or osteopenia. The second question is "why?" Osteoporosis--or osteopenia--in
premenopausal women is usually a result of not having built enough bone in the
first place or what we call "secondary osteoporosis," meaning as a
result of another disease, disorder, or condition.
Risk factors for osteoporosis or low bone mass include a family history (which
you have); any condition (including menopause) which causes low estrogen levels;
a sedentary lifestyle; thin frame; a history of using certain medications (e.g.
thyroid medications or corticosteroids for asthma or other chronic conditions);
smoking; alcohol use; and a host of other diseases, disorders and conditions.
You should ask you doctor if there are any other tests you should be given.
For example, you may need your thyroid or estrogen levels checked. Given your
age, you may want to ask your doctor if you should be taking birth control pills
as part of your therapeutic regimen (not for their contraceptive benefits, but
for the estrogen).
Regarding your medication: Didrocal therapy is a nonhormonal treatment for
osteoporosis consisting of etidronate disodium given for 14 days followed by
calcium carbonate given for the next 76 days. Etidronate disodium is a bisphosphonate
that inhibits bone resorption. The Didrocal regimen was designed to suppress
the resorptive activity of osteoclasts, while allowing normal bone formation
to take place during the rest of the remodeling cycle. It is approved for the
treatment of established postmenopausal osteoporosis diagnosed by bone densitometry
(a bone mineral density of more than 2.67 standard deviations below the young
For more information on osteoporosis, click here.
Donnica Moore MD
Created: 4/16/2003  - Donnica Moore, M.D.