In order to analyse the clinical characteristics and the principal causes of osteoporosis in men, 81 osteoporotic males from an out-patient rheumatology department were studied. Bone mass assessment, automated biochemical profile and biochemical markers of bone turnover were performed in all patients, and hormonal measurements were taken when a specific aetiology was not readily apparent. Sixty-three men (78%) had secondary osteoporosis and 18 (22%) primary osteoporosis. Secondary causes of osteoporosis included hypogonadism (12 patients), corticosteroid therapy (10 patients) and alcoholism (10 patients); the remaining patients had various causes of osteoporosis. Eighteen patients had primary osteoporosis, eight of them with associated hypercalciuria. Normocalciuric patients showed lower 25-hydroxyvitamin D and 1-25-hydroxyvitamin D levels than the control group, whereas hypercalciuric patients had lower parathyroid hormone and renal threshold for phosphate excretion. In 69 patients (85%), back pain was the chief complaint. Forty-five of these 69 patients (65%) had chronic back pain and 24 (35%) had subacute episodes. Fifty per cent of the patients with chronic back pain had vertebral fractures. Both patients with and without chronic back pain were found to have a similar number of vertebral fractures. In conclusion, male osteoporosis is frequently associated with major risk factors. Patients with primary osteoporosis may have associated hypercalciuria or decreased vitamin D levels. However, not all the patients for whom back pain was the chief complaint were found to have vertebral fractures.

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