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Juvenile osteoporosis: causes, treatments, types

Juvenile osteoporosis is a rare disease that affects children and adolescents. It causes excessive bone loss, inadequate bone development, or both.

Osteoporosis results in “porous bones”. When this happens, an individual has an increased risk of developing bone fractures due to excessive bone loss, insufficient bone formation, or both.

Often an underlying condition causes a person to develop juvenile osteoporosis, but in some cases doctors cannot find the cause.

This article examines the types, causes, and treatments of juvenile osteoporosis and how it compares to osteogenesis imperfecta, a similar condition.

A person can develop one of two types of osteoporosis: secondary or idiopathic.


In most cases, a child or adolescent will develop secondary osteoporosis.

In these cases, an underlying disease causes the individual to develop osteoporosis.

Both adults and children can develop secondary forms of the disease.

Several factors can lead to secondary osteoporosis, including juvenile idiopathic arthritis, certain medications, and behaviors such as inactivity or smoking.


Idiopathic osteoporosis refers to when a doctor cannot determine the underlying cause of bone loss. This type of osteoporosis is rare.

Often, previously healthy children will develop idiopathic osteoporosis before puberty. It can develop anywhere between 1 and 13 years old, with the average age of onset being 7 years old.

The causes of juvenile osteoporosis vary depending on the type of the individual.

Children who develop idiopathic osteoporosis have no known cause. In other words, a doctor cannot trace the cause of a disease, medication, or behavior.

Secondary osteoporosis, on the other hand, can result from a variety of conditions, medications, or behaviors.


Several underlying diseases and health conditions can cause the development of juvenile osteoporosis. Here are some examples :

A child’s doctor may identify another underlying condition. Determining the exact cause will help in the treatment of secondary osteoporosis.


The use of certain medications can cause juvenile osteoporosis. Some common causes include:

  • corticosteroids: often used to treat asthma or juvenile arthritis
  • anticonvulsants: often prescribed for epilepsy
  • immunosuppressive agents: often used in cancer and autoimmune disease care


Certain behaviors or lifestyles can cause a person to develop juvenile osteoporosis. Some potential causes include:

  • excessive exercise that leads to the absence of menstruation (amenorrhea)
  • alcohol abuse
  • smoking
  • lack of calcium and vitamin D
  • prolonged periods of immobility or inactivity

Osteogenesis imperfecta is a rare genetic condition that a person is born with. The condition affects both connective tissue and bones. It can also cause atypical bone growth.

Symptoms of osteogenesis imperfecta can vary from person to person, as can the age at which symptoms begin.

Both conditions can cause an individual to fracture bones more easily. However, while osteoporosis only affects the bones, osteogenesis imperfecta can affect other areas of the body, including:

  • lungs
  • heart
  • the teeth
  • ligament flexibility
  • Muscular force

They also differ in their causes. Most cases of osteoporosis occur due to an underlying condition, including osteogenesis imperfecta.

In contrast, osteogenesis imperfecta is the result of a genetic mutation that causes problems with the quality of bone collagen.

To distinguish between the two, a physician will likely need to:

  • examine the individual’s family history to check for the presence of osteogenesis imperfecta
  • check the eyes for the presence of purple, gray, or blue sclera often found with osteogenesis imperfecta
  • do genetic testing or a bone biopsy in some cases

Treatments for juvenile osteoporosis vary depending on the type as well as the underlying cause of osteoporosis.

In cases of idiopathic osteoporosis, the disease may resolve spontaneously.

In the case of secondary osteoporosis, a doctor will need to treat the underlying condition. Once someone has treated the condition causing the secondary osteoporosis, the osteoporosis itself should also go away.

Until remission of the disease occurs, a doctor will likely recommend strategies to prevent spinal or other bone damage. Some possible steps a doctor may recommend include:

  • using assistive devices, such as crutches
  • eating a balanced diet with calcium and vitamin D supplements
  • avoid weight-bearing activities
  • do physiotherapy

The majority of children and adolescents who develop juvenile osteoporosis recover completely without side effects or long-term complications.

During the disease, they may lose some bone growth.

However, they will also often experience new bone growth once they are clear of the disease.

Permanent disability may occur in rare cases. This can include collapse of the rib cage or curvature of the upper spine.

Juvenile osteoporosis involves the weakening of bones which can lead to easy fractures.

There are two types of juvenile osteoporosis: secondary and idiopathic. Treatment usually involves helping to prevent injuries from weakened bones as well as treating any other underlying conditions.

Most children will experience a full recovery. However, in some cases, a child may develop a permanent disability. Taking precautionary measures can help prevent long-term complications.