Osteoporosis is a progressive condition where bone density is lost or bone formation is insufficient. Although much more common in older adults, especially women, osteoporosis can also occur during childhood.
Juvenile osteoporosis is a very rare but serious condition. It typically occurs between the ages of 8 and 14, but can occur in younger children most often during growth spurts. Doctors refer to this as secondary osteoporosis. When it does occur, it is usually due to a medication or underlying medical condition or a genetic disorder.
Idiopathic Juvenile Osteoporosis
However, sometimes, no cause can be found and the disease is categorized as an extremely rare form of osteoporosis, called idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis. No matter what causes it, juvenile osteoporosis can be a significant problem because it occurs during the bodys peak bone-building years.
From birth through young adulthood, children steadily accumulate bone mass, which usually peaks somewhere in the mid 20s. Some causes of secondary osteoporosis in children include juvenile arthritis, diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, malabsorption syndromes, anorexia nervosa and kidney disease.
Osteogenesis imperfecta is a genetic disorder characterized by bones that break easily, often from no apparent cause. Frequent use of certain medications such as anti-convulsants, or anti-seizure medications, corticosteroids, immunosuppressive drugs, or conditions that lead to prolonged immobility may cause or increase risk of osteoporosis.
Juvenile osteoporosis, like other types is often a silent disease and does not present any symptoms until the child breaks a bone with minimal trauma. Along with a complete medical history and physical examination a doctor may diagnose the condition from family history, blood tests, x-rays of the broken bone and skeletal system, or by using a bone density test.
Treatment methods usually include the same methods that are used for prevention. These methods include increasing the childs dietary intake of calcium and vitamin D and may include dietary supplements. Taking care to maintain an appropriate body weight and increasing physical activity along with a regimen of weight bearing exercise. Limiting sugar intake, and minimizing caffeine are important to both treatment and prevention. Medications may also be prescribed to help minimize or maintain symptoms.
In rare cases, the cause of juvenile osteoporosis can’t be determined. Doctors refer to this as idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis. Signs and symptoms include pain in the lower back, hips and feet, and difficulty walking. Most children with this condition have a complete recovery of bone tissue within two to four years after their diagnosis.
There is no specific treatment for this type of osteoporosis since it most often resolves itself spontaneously. Some treatments that may be effective include physical therapy, medications to manage symptoms of the disease, and protective measures to help prevent fracture.
Some groups of children may be more likely to have poor bone health and are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis in childhood, adolescence or advanced age.
Children who may be at increased risk are premature and low birth weight infants who have lower-than-expected bone mass in the first few months of life, Children with cerebral palsy and other conditions causing limited weight bearing and Adolescent girls who have minimal, delayed or irregular menstrual cycles because of strenuous athletic training, emotional stress, or low body weight.