Low bone density may increase your child’s risk for fracture, or broken bones. In this website, you will learn about low bone density and what causes it. You will also learn how we diagnose and evaluate low bone density in children.

What Is Bone Density?

Bone density is a measure of how much material is in bone per unit volume of bone. Bone density is one of many things that can affect bone strength. In general, bones that are denser are less likely to fracture (break).

What Is Low Bone Density?

Low bone density is a condition in which bones are less dense than is normal for age and sex. Low bone density used to be called osteopenia. However, this term is no longer used in children.

What Are the Risks of Low Bone Density?

If your child has low bone density, she may be at higher risk of having a fracture (broken bone). Low bone density for age in children with a significant fracture history is called osteoporosis.

What Are the Different Causes of Low Bone Density?

  • Primary bone disorders are diseases that directly affect bone density and strength. An example of a primary bone disorder is osteogenesis imperfecta.
  • Secondary low bone density is caused by underlying medical conditions. Examples include female athletes not getting their period, anorexia nervosa, other conditions of low estrogen, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, Cushing’s syndrome, conditions requiring chronic steroid treatment, and conditions where the child has limited mobility.
  • Idiopathic low bone density occurs without a clear cause