Osteoporosis is a systemic skeletal disease characterized by low bone mass and microarchitectural deterioration of bone tissue. At a given age, bone mass results from the amount of bone acquired during growth, i.e. the peak bone mass (Bonjour et al., 1991, Theintz et al. 1992) minus the age-related bone loss which particularly accelerates after menopause. The rate and magnitude of bone mass gain during the pubertal years and of bone loss in later life may markedly differ from one skeletal site to another, as well as from one individual to another. Bone mass gain is mainly related to increases in bone size, that is in bone external dimensions, with minimal changes in bone microarchitecture. In contrast, postmenopausal and age-related decreases in bone mass result from thinning of both cortices and trabeculae, from perforation and eventually disappearance of the latter, leading to significant alterations of the bone microarchitecture (Fig. 1).
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