Difference Between Osteopenia & Osteoporosis

Updated April 17, 2017

Osteopenia and osteoporosis are two different medical conditions. Osteopenia describes when the bones of the body get thinner than normal, and osteoporosis concerns easy bone fracture.


Osteopenia is considered the predecessor of osteoporosis. It is diagnosed by a test to determine bone mineral density (BMD) that calculates a T score. People with osteopenia get a T score between -1.0 and -2.5. If the T score is lower than -2.5, the condition has progressed into osteoporosis.


Starting from age 30, existing bone cells begin to be reabsorbed by the body faster than new bone can be created. Besides advancing age, being Caucasian or Asian, exercising minimally and having a family history increases your risk of having either condition.


Osteopenia does not have any symptoms. No pain or change is detected with loss of bone mass. Thus, the best course of action is to see a doctor for a consultation after age 30, particularly for people who are high risk.


Drinking milk, as well as intake of other diary products, is strongly encouraged, because calcium is crucial for bone formation. Your doctor can also prescribe a calcium supplement, which can be combined with vitamin D.


To prevent osteopenia or osteoporosis, exercise regularly, abstain from smoking and avoid excessive intake of sodas and alcohol.

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About the Author

Based in the D.C. area, Andy Joseph works full-time as a data analyst and technical writer. He has been writing articles about technology, health, politics, music, culture and automobiles since 2007. His work has appeared in The Express, Congressional Report and Road & Track. He has a master's degree in journalism and technology management.