NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Osteoporosis can be a painful, crippling disease. Yet, many patients don’t know they have it until after they break or fracture a bone.

Old and frail: that’s the common image of an osteoporosis patient. But bone experts say think again.

“Far more commonly what we are referring to are people generally say in the 40-60 year range that are being looked at more carefully than previously,” said Dr. Nathaniel Clark, with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Faye Lakeman said she found out she had osteoporosis when she was just in her early 50s.

Today, she and her husband Dan are getting around fine, even though he’s also being treated for severe bone loss.

“You are constantly aware of the dangers of making a wrong move with a broken bone,” said Dan Lakeman.

Worse yet, as Dr. Max Gomez reported, many people are taking medications that may actually be causing the brittle bone disease.

What is concerning doctors is something referred to as secondary osteoporosis, meaning the bone loss isn’t solely due to aging, but is being accelerated by other factors.

“I am on a significant number of medications and I think that may be a certain aspect of that,” Dan said.

Dr. Ann Babbitt runs a support group for osteoporosis patients. She said many widely prescribed drugs can hurt bones over time.

“Many people are on Prednisone and that’s probably the one that we hear the most about and is a definite medication that is not good for bone health,” Dr. Babbitt said.

In addition to steroids like Prednisone, other drugs that can thin bones include some narcotic pain relievers, antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications, Gomez reported.

The problem is that many patients now take these drugs for years.

So why take these drugs if they can lead to osteoporosis? It’s about balancing the risks and benefits of any drug, and many of these other conditions are also serious, Gomez reported.

If you’re concerned that you might have weakened bones, ask your doctor about having a bone scan to evaluate your bone density.

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