Osteoporosis Juvenile

Osteoporosis typically affects older adults. However, children can also suffer from the disease. While juvenile osteoporosis is rare, it can cause major health issues both during childhood and later in life. Juvenile osteoporosis comes in two forms: secondary osteoporosis and idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis.

Bone Formation in Children

Juvenile osteoporosis can cause a child to develop poor bone mass, as it affects children during their bone-forming years. From birth through young adulthood, children’s bones are accumulating mass. Bone mass is impacted both by a person’s diet and by their level of activity. Physical exercise, namely jumping and hopping, and a diet rich in calcium help keep a person’s bones strong and healthy.

Before a person reaches the age of 30, his bone mass typically peaks. The higher a person’s peak bone mass, the lower his chance of developing osteoporosis later in life.

Secondary Osteoporosis

Secondary osteoporosis is osteoporosis that is caused by a primary disorder, medication or behavior. Secondary osteoporosis can affect both children and adults.

Primary disorders that can lead to secondary osteoporosis include:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Malabsorption syndromes
  • Osteogenesis imperfecta.

Medications that can lead to secondary osteoporosis include:

  • Anticonvulsants
  • Corticosteroids
  • Immunosuppressive medications.

Behaviors that can contribute to secondary osteoporosis include:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Excessive exercise that causes a girl to stop menstruating
  • Inadequate nutrition
  • Prolonged inactivity or immobility
  • Tobacco use.

The best way to treat secondary osteoporosis is to treat its underlying cause. Children with secondary osteoporosis should eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D and get as much exercise as physically possible.

Idiopathic Juvenile Osteoporosis

Idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis (IJO) is a primary condition with no known cause. A rare form of osteoporosis, IJO typically occurs in healthy children prior to the onset of puberty. While the average age of onset is seven, children as young as one and as old as 13 have been diagnosed with IJO.

Symptoms of idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis include:

  • Abnormal curvature of the upper spine
  • Difficulty walking
  • Fractures of the lower extremities
  • Limp
  • Loss of height
  • Pain in the lower back, hips, ankles, feet and knees
  • Sunken chest.

Treatment for Idiopathic Juvenile Osteoporosis

There is no medical or surgical treatment for idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis. However, treatment often isn’t needed, as IJO typically goes away spontaneously. When IJO disappears, a child typically regains all of his lost bone tissue. However, in some cases children with IJO suffer permanent disability.

A child suffering from idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis might benefit from physical therapy to protect the spine and bones from fracture. Children with IJO also might need to avoid weight-bearing activities and use crutches. In addition, IJO sufferers should eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.


National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Staff. (2005). Juvenile osteoporosis. Retrieved June 15, 2007, from National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Web site: http://www.niams.nih.gov/bone/hi/osteoporosis_juv.htm.

University of Virginia Health System Staff. (2004). Juvenile osteoporosis. Retrieved April 2, 2010, from the University of Virginia Health System Web site: http://www.healthsystem.virginia.edu/uvahealth/peds_diabetes/josteo.cfm.