Osteoporosis in children symptoms and treatment

Shishkevich Vladimir, orthopedic and traumatologistShishkevich Vladimir, orthopedic and traumatologist, project editor-in-chief ExpertNews.

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Here you will find out:

Despite the fact that osteoporosis is characteristic of middle-aged and older female patients, the pathology often develops in childhood or adolescence. What is the difference between osteoporosis in children? What are its characteristic symptoms? What methods of effective treatment does modern medicine offer? And what preventive measures should parents practice to reduce the risk of developing a disease in their child? We offer answers to all questions right now.

Features and types of childhood osteoporosis

It will not be a discovery for anyone that the skeleton grows especially intensely in childhood and adolescence. The increase in width occurs due to the formation of new bone tissue, in length – cartilage tissue.

The child’s body is particularly demanding on the intake of nutrients, and especially calcium, which is required for bone growth. That is why proper and balanced nutrition, physical activity, walks in the fresh air, a sufficient number of sunbaths are so important for a child.

There are several types of childhood osteoporosis. If violations occurred during fetal development, then they talk about congenital pathology. Causes of osteoporosis in children:

  • repeated pregnancy happened after a short break after the previous birth;
  • the fetus was deprived of sufficient portions of oxygen (hypoxia) or had a small weight (hypotrophy) – these pathologies are most often caused by malfunctions of the placenta;
  • mother had serious illnesses during pregnancy;
  • the mother worked in harmful conditions (for example, chemical production) or had great physical exertion;
  • bad habits of the mother;
  • bearing several children at once.

In the first years of life, osteoporosis in a child develops for the following reasons:

  • poor living conditions and hygiene;
  • early abandonment of the mother from breastfeeding;
  • problems with the gastrointestinal tract in a child;
  • lack of fresh air, sun;
  • lack of calcium and vitamin D.

In adolescence, osteoporosis develops due to:

  • excessive drinking;
  • smoking;
  • irregular eating and abuse of junk food (fast food, for example);
  • low physical activity, a long stay at a computer or playing on a tablet while lying on a sofa;
  • chronic pathologies of the k >
    Osteoporosis at a young age may not be felt for a long time. The child will not feel discomfort and will not complain of joint pain. Only when the bones and cartilage are sufficiently destroyed do the characteristic symptoms of osteoporosis in children appear:

  • pain in the spine and joints of the limbs;
  • the child quickly gets tired and standing and sitting;
  • the occurrence of fractures (often without displacement) “for no obvious reason” – there were no strong blows, no falls from a bicycle or a skate, or unsuccessful tackles during a football game;
  • deformation of the limbs, in particular, shortening of the legs can lead to a change in gait, lameness.

There are a number of symptoms that can help you catch osteoporosis at an early stage. Seek qualified medical advice immediately if a child:

  • the skin became dry, peeling and redness appeared;
  • muscle cramps occur (especially at night);
  • sleeps poorly at night;
  • the hair became dull and brittle, the nails exfoliate.

The child may complain of prolonged aching chest pains, while he will try to spend a lot of time in a reclining position, when the pain disappears. Many children complain of headaches, skin patches, tingling of hands or feet – these neurological symptoms cannot be ignored either.

Diseases such as rickets, vegetovascular dystonia, anorexia, cerebral palsy, and diseases of the gastrointestinal tract can worsen bone density.

Parents should be on guard and at critical, turning points in the life of the child:

  • first year of life;
  • 2,5-3 years;
  • 6 years (going to school);
  • from 12 years old and all the time of puberty.

Signs of osteoporosis in children also include:

  • change in posture – the stomach protrudes, the chest, on the contrary, becomes hollow;
  • slow growth (the child is much behind in growth from peers of a similar build);
  • in case of congenital pathology, the thinned outer cover of bones, porosity, and atypical vertebral shape in the form of wedges (the effect of “fish vertebrae) will appear on x-rays.

Often in childhood, osteoporosis is confused with rickets, but densitometry, a laboratory study of bone density, helps to eliminate doubts and make a diagnosis.

Treatment of osteoporosis in childhood

Timely treatment started is usually not associated with any difficulties, since the child’s body is able to recover much faster than an adult.

The main methods of treating osteoporosis in children include:

  • complex drug therapy;
  • dietary adjustment with the inclusion of oatmeal, legumes and fish in the diet (any drinks containing caffeine are strictly prohibited);
  • exercise therapy classes (appointed no earlier than 3 months after completion of the course of taking medications);
  • wearing orthopedic appliances – bandages, corsets that help reduce pain and fix bones, removing excessive stress on muscles and joints.

Including the doctor can prescribe courses of the following medications:

  • anabolic steroids and recombinant growth hormone – to stimulate the production of new bone tissue;
  • calcitonin or estrogen – drugs that prevent the excessively fast process of “leaching” of calcium and destruction of bone tissue;
  • Vitamin D, calcium, osteogen – a combination that helps normalize metabolism in the body.

The appointment of any medication is very careful. Very reluctantly, doctors prescribe hormones that can have the most powerful side effect on internal organs. Such drugs are taken only under the supervision of a doctor (the child should go to hospital).

Prevention of childhood osteoporosis

We all know well that it is easier to prevent a disease than to then try to treat it. There are a few simple rules that can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis in a child. Parents need to:

  • monitor the baby’s nutrition, significantly limit the consumption of hamburgers, chips and other fast food;
  • will take care that the necessary amount of minerals and vitamins has been supplied to the body, and if they are not enough from food, then consult a doctor about the possibilities of taking vitamin-mineral complexes;
  • stimulate the child to spend more time in the fresh air, to support his active hobbies (football, skateboarding or snowboarding, etc.)

If earlier it was possible to diagnose osteoporosis in childhood only after the first fracture, and symptoms such as night muscle cramps, general weakness and fatigue were not given proper attention, then modern diagnosis of osteoporosis in children can detect the disease at its earliest stages, which means it will be defeated much easier.

Most pediatricians pay attention to the fact that childhood osteoporosis is a fairly rare disease. The features of its development at this age are poorly understood, therefore, treatment of children is almost completely analogous to an adult – analgesics, bisphosphonates, vitamin and mineral complex, calcium salts, etc., physiotherapy exercises, diet adjustment. The complex effect on pathology helps to restore the mechanisms of the proper formation of bones and skeleton, and your child grows healthy.

All about children

This skeletal disease, which is characterized by reduced bone density, increased fragility, and metabolic disorders in bone tissue, was previously considered an exclusively adult disease. However, today osteoporosis in children is increasingly being diagnosed: what is this pathology that leads to a decrease in bone strength and an increased risk of fractures?

Softness and reduced bone density in children are most often found closer to adolescence, on the eve of puberty. However, the diagnosis in some cases can be made long before this point.

Causes of congenital osteoporosis (intrauterine pathology):

  • prematurity;
  • fetal hypoxia;
  • malnutrition;
  • pathology of the placenta;
  • multiple pregnancies;
  • a small period of time between births;
  • non-observance of the regimen of the day by the mother during pregnancy;
  • chronic diseases of a woman;
  • taking drugs and alcohol, smoking while carrying a baby.

Causes of osteoporosis in children of the first year of life:

  • artificial feeding (most often – unadapted mixtures);
  • vitamin D deficiency;
  • intestinal diseases associated with impaired absorption;
  • lack of ultraviolet radiation;
  • non-compliance with hygiene rules.

Causes of teenage osteoporosis:

  • smoking;
  • alcohol consumption;
  • lack of dairy products on the menu;
  • poor diet
  • immobility due to various reasons;
  • poisoning with radioactive or toxic substances;
  • lack of physical activity;
  • chronic diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, liver, kidneys;
  • systemic and inflammatory pathologies (tuberculosis, for example).

Among the reasons for the development of childhood osteoporosis at different ages, doctors note the use of a number of medications, which include:

  • glucocorticosteroid hormones;
  • anticonvulsant tablets (anticonvulsants);
  • chemotherapeutic substances;
  • antibiotics (tetracycline, cyclosporine);
  • antacids – drugs that reduce the acidity of the stomach.

Osteoporosis often occurs as a metabolic disorder. Predisposing factors can be such diseases as diabetes mellitus, arthritis, leukemia, thyroid problems, glomerulonephritis, etc. Regardless of the reasons, this is a fairly serious disease, as a result of which the number of fractures in the child is increased, the general condition worsens and immediate medical attention is required.

There are no pronounced symptoms of osteoporosis in childhood. Pain may occur in the spine, legs, fatigue in a certain position – sitting or standing. Painful sensations can become constant and aching over time. Fractures in a child can occur for no apparent reason, in the absence of injury. Such fractures are called spontaneous, and most often the bones break in the neck of the thigh, vertebral bodies, ulnar or humerus. Osteoporosis in children is often manifested by the following external signs:

  • lower growth compared to peers;
  • change in posture: the lumbar deflection straightens, roundness in the chest area increases, the stomach protrudes;
  • on the surface of the body you can observe the formation of asymmetric skin folds, which appear due to the deviation of the spine in one of the parties.

Diagnosis of childhood osteoporosis is quite complicated due to mild symptoms. Signs of the disease can be recognized only as a result of careful observation of the child and careful examination of x-rays during fractures. The specialist will see on them:

  • decrease in the density of the outer layer of the bone;
  • its thinning;
  • the fabric, as it were, is being rebuilt from one section to another;
  • wedge-shaped, rather unusual shape of the vertebrae – in medicine they are called fish vertebrae.

At an early age, osteoporosis in a child is difficult to distinguish from rickets (you can see signs of rickets in infants by reference). Therefore, in modern medicine, densitometry is used to more accurately diagnose this disease – the measurement of bone mineral density. When confirming the diagnosis, the doctor prescribes treatment depending on the age of the child and the characteristics of his health, the form of the course of the disease.

Osteoporosis in children lends itself to therapy quite successfully if it is started on time. The main objectives of the treatment are stabilization of the condition, elimination of complaints, restoration of bone tissue functions. Symptomatic therapy includes:

  • a special diet enriched with protein, phosphorus, calcium;
  • physiotherapy exercises 3-4 months after the main complex treatment to prevent the risk of bone deformities;
  • painkillers with a pronounced pain syndrome and complaints about it;
  • wearing special corsets.

To eliminate the main causes of osteoporosis in children, drugs such as:

  1. synthetic and natural calcitonins and estrogens, which effectively absorb bone tissue and are prescribed in short courses;
  2. anabolic steroids and growth hormone that stimulate bone formation;
  3. Vitamin D, either in pure form or in combination with calcium, as well as osteogenon – these drugs normalize the metabolism, because of the violation of which bone softening most often occurs.

Priorities in the treatment of childhood osteoporosis are drugs from the third group, since the use of hormonal drugs is undesirable. They can negatively affect the formation of the internal systems of the body.

Often, parents, along with the main therapy, use folk remedies, but this can only be done with the permission of a doctor. In particular, mixtures and solutions that strengthen bones are prepared. Such as, for example, lemon juice with eggshell, comfrey and St. John’s wort. For prevention, it is good to give children multivitamin complexes with a mandatory content of calcium, vitamin D and magnesium. If a child is accustomed to play sports and eat right from childhood, no osteoporosis threatens his bones.

The danger of developing osteoporosis in children and methods for its treatment

Osteoporosis is a rather complex disease, which is characterized by increased fragility of bones. The main reason for this is a violation of metabolic processes in the body, but there are a number of other factors that contribute to the development of the disease. Let’s see what causes osteoporosis in children, and what are the effective methods for its treatment?

Features of osteoporosis in children

Osteoporosis is a complex disease of the musculoskeletal system characteristic of women of the older age group, children and adolescents. It is quite difficult to determine the disease in the initial stages, since the X-ray apparatus is most often used to diagnose bone structures, and it is unable to adequately reflect the current state of bone tissues.

In childhood, this disease is particularly dangerous, since the density indicator is directly related to bone strength, and its decrease can cause fractures even with a slight bruise. This leads to the fact that the child must limit himself in activity, and this leads to even more serious negative consequences.

Their deficiency may be associated with congenital pathologies, bad habits, and even with the use of certain medications.

The main causes of the disease

For each age group, doctors identify different causes of osteoporosis. Each of them is associated with the characteristics of the body at different age periods, so the disease can appear in both adolescents and newborns.

If we talk about the teenage period, the main reasons are:

  • Lack of proper nutrition and lack of dairy products in the diet;
  • Reduced physical activity, for example, if the child spends a lot of time at the computer;
  • Radioactive and toxic substances that can accumulate in the body for years, inhibiting and inhibiting the activity of calcium and other trace elements;
  • Chronic diseases that cause disturbances in the functioning of the digestive tract, heart, liver and kidneys;
  • Systemic inflammation

Also, the cause of the development of osteoporosis in adolescent children is the abuse of cigarettes and alcoholic beverages, the use of which, during this period of life, can lead to a variety of negative consequences, leading to both chronic diseases and impaired growth of the body as a whole.

Idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis is characteristic of adolescents during puberty, since at this time the body is rebuilt on almost all fronts, which leads to hormonal imbalance, vitamin deficiency and other phenomena that can affect its functions.

Osteoporosis in infancy may occur in the following circumstances:

  • The child was born earlier than the prescribed time and during the time spent in the womb, he could not get all the necessary vitamins and minerals from the mother’s body;
  • Violations of the functions of the placenta and oxygen starvation of the fetus;
  • Multiple pregnancy or several births with minimal intervals;
  • The mother’s work at work during pregnancy is particularly negatively affected by hard physical labor, accompanied by an irregular schedule;
  • Harmful habits of the mother during pregnancy – taking drugs, alcohol and tobacco products leads to general intoxication, which negatively affects both the pregnant and the newborn.

In newborns, the disease can also occur due to:

  • The use of special mixtures for feeding without prior consultation with a specialist;
  • Disruption of the process of assimilation of food by the intestines;
  • Non-compliance with hygiene rules;
  • Deficiency of vitamin D, which is synthesized by the body only under the influence of ultraviolet radiation.

The cause of the development of osteoporosis in children may be the use of medications in the following categories:

  • Hormones based on glucocorticosteroids, which are used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases;
  • Anticonvulsants used in epilepsy;
  • Chemotherapeutic substances;
  • Antibiotics, in the list of which you can find tetracycline, cyclosporin and their analogues;
  • Antacids are drugs used for heartburn to reduce the acidity of the stomach.

There are more than enough reasons for the development of osteoporosis in children, but with timely detection, the disease can be treated without negative consequences.

Symptoms of osteoporosis in children

To treat osteoporosis as effective as possible, it is necessary to notice its symptoms as soon as possible and consult a doctor. The difficulty lies in the fact that in childhood it is difficult to distinguish these same signs.

The main symptoms of childhood osteoporosis:

  • Pain in the spine, lower extremities and lower back;
  • Fatigue both in a standing and sitting position;
  • More frequent cases of fractures, including vertebrae;
  • Slowed growth and lower rates when compared with peers;
  • Changes in posture, accompanied by protrusion of the abdomen, straightening of the lumbar and increased roundness in the chest area;
  • The presence of asymmetric skin folds caused by the deviation of the spine to the side.

In newborns, the disease is much easier to detect, since its signs are clearly visible on x-rays:

  • Refined outer layers of bone tissue;
  • Lower bone density;
  • Wedge-shaped vertebrae.


The treatment of osteoporosis with timely diagnosis is well treatable. Classical therapy consists of two stages:

  • Stabilization of the current state of the child;
  • Restoring bone tissue reproduction.

At the first stage, symptomatic treatment is applied, which may include:

  • A diet consisting of a large number of foods containing calcium, phosphorus and proteins;
  • Exercise therapy – is assigned individually, depending on the patient’s indicators.

Additionally, the attending physician may prescribe painkillers or wear corsets that normalize posture and direct bone growth in the right direction.

At the second stage, a number of medicines are used, among which are:

  • Calcitonins are prescribed in short courses, inhibit resorption of bone tissue;
  • Stimulants – promote bone formation (anabolic stero >

Vitamin D is most often used to treat osteoporosis in children, as well as preparations containing calcium and magnesium. Most of these drugs are completely natural and do not have a negative effect on a weakened children’s body.

At the end of treatment, a preventive course is prescribed, during which the child needs to use dairy products or vitamin complexes containing trace elements responsible for the formation of bone tissue. The daily norm of calcium for a teenager is about 1200 mg, so it is very important to follow a proper diet.

Osteoporosis is a rather complex disease, especially for the child’s body, as it can lead to complex disorders in the development of the musculoskeletal system. The disease in the early stages responds well to treatment, and with constant prevention, the child will not encounter it at all. Osteoporosis can be either congenital or acquired, so it is very important to visit a specialist during pregnancy and during the growth of the child.

Juvenile osteoporosis

The disease of bone tissue of the body under the age of 18 is called juvenile osteoporosis in children. This type of disease leads to a violation of the metabolism inside the bones, which reduces the level of mineralization. As a result, the child’s bone tissue becomes fragile, loose and less resistant to fractures and injuries.

Causes of the disease


  • Prematurity in premature birth.
  • Hypoxia and malnutrition.
  • Pathology of the placenta.
  • Bearing twins or triplets.
  • Short recovery period between births.
  • Chronic diseases during pregnancy.
  • Bad habits of the expectant mother.

First year of life

  • Lack of breast milk or complete abandonment of breastfeeding, replacement of natural feeding with artificial mixtures.
  • Low Vitamin D.
  • Poor ability to absorb nutrients.
  • Neglect of hygiene.

Teenage years


  • Hormone-based drugs.
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Chemical therapy.
  • Antibiotics.
  • Medications that aim to lower acid levels in the stomach.

What are the symptoms of a disease?

At first, osteoporosis in children develops without special and significant signs. The first noticeable symptom is fatigue, mild pain, as well as discomfort in the lower back and back. The nature of the pain resembles a “wave”, temporarily intensifying, and then again calming down. A clear sign of the disease is a fracture, most often occurring in the forearm. During the hospitalization of the patient and detect osteoporosis. Another external sign of this disease is a violation of posture, especially with a violation of the growth rate. In this case, a fracture occurs in the vertebrae. Therefore, the child complains of pain in the back. An external examination reveals tension and muscle strain.

How is it diagnosed?

To begin with, the doctor prescribes special tests to exclude diseases of the endocrine system, infectious diseases or other causes of the appearance of characteristic signs. An accurate diagnosis requires an overview radiography, which helps to detect bone density, fractures, gaps, and enlargement of bone marrow channels. Using computed tomography, a doctor can externally assess the status of fractures.

Osteoporosis in a child requires confirmation of the low level of mineralization inside the bone tissue, which can be detected by performing double energy X-ray absorptiometry. This procedure is a type of densitometry and determines bone density. After the doctor received the tests, he compares them with normal indicators, depending on the age of the child. Another procedure that helps to accurately determine osteoporosis in adolescents and children is a biopsy.

Possible consequences of the disease

Developing in the children’s body, osteoporosis becomes the cause of multiple fractures, because bone tissue is very fragile. Violation of the integrity of the bone can occur in the legs, arms, in the hip joint and even in the spine. As a result, the child is permanently immobilized during the treatment of fractures. With this outcome, there is a greater likelihood of disability. Therefore, if at least the primary causes of the disease are noticeable, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Treatment of the disease

Drug therapy

Helps eliminate the causes of osteoporosis in childhood. When choosing pharmaceuticals, it is possible to use:

  • calcitonins – special substances that interfere with the resorption of bone tissue;
  • steroids – medicines that increase bone mass formation;
  • Vitamin D to support overall health.

Treatment of osteoporosis in children with steroids adversely affects the growing body, so specially purified medications have been developed.

Traditional medicine for osteoporosis in children

It is used simultaneously with a medical course of treatment and only after approval by a doctor. Recipe examples:

  • Necessary herbs: dream grass, Chernobyl, woodruff odorous. Quantity – 1 tbsp. spoon. Pour the floor with a liter of boiling water and insist. You need to drink a quarter cup a day.
  • Egg shell, freshly squeezed lemon juice, comfrey, St. John’s wort. Mix in equal amounts. Use the resulting mixture as a tincture.
  • Take dill and parsley 200 g each. Pour boiling water, leave for 3 hours. Reception is carried out inside no more than 100 ml per day.

Prevention: how to prevent the occurrence of an ailment?

The main measure to prevent osteoporosis in children is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. To do this, you should eat balanced, saturating your diet with all the necessary substances, minerals and vitamins. Prevention of osteoporosis in children also consists in playing sports, which will greatly help to develop and strengthen the health of the child. Regular visits to the doctor should not be neglected as a prevention of osteoporosis and other diseases. For a speedy recovery, doctors recommend adding more fruits and vegetables, as well as products saturated with phosphorus and calcium, to the diet daily.

Morozov Georgiy

Georgy Morozov, rheumatologist. For more than 20 years, he has been involved in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of joint diseases.