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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 adult mean).

For more information on osteoporosis, click here.

Best regards,
Donnica Moore MD
President, DrDonnica.com

Created: 4/16/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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