Osteoporosis occurs when the body removes too much of the old bone (resorption) fails to produce enough new bone, or both. This causes the bones to become thinner and weak and puts them at risk for fracture. While there is no cure for osteoporosis there are treatment options available to slow or stop the progression of the condition. Several methods are used in prevention and treatment, as the best treatment is prevention. When diet and exercise are not enough medications may be prescribed.
Calcium and Vitamin D are needed to maintain bone health and to reduce bone loss. In order for other treatment medications to be most effective and work to their fullest capacity, adequate levels of both Calcium and Vitamin D are essential.
These supplements are available without a prescription. Up to 1500 mg of calcium a day is recommended for those with osteoporosis along with 600-800 IU of vitamin D.
Calcium may cause nausea, constipation or vomiting. Excessive Vitamin D can lead to toxicity and may cause symptoms such as headache, weakness, bone or muscle pain. Those with Vitamin D toxicity, or elevated levels of calcium in the blood should not take these supplements.
There are several different types of prescription drugs available as well. Hormone Replacement Therapy is one such type of medication. Since osteoporosis is most prevalent in postmenopausal women, a hormone therapy such as estrogen replacement may be effective in relieving not only those symptoms but also helping to aid in the prevention of bone loss due to loss of estrogen.
It can increase your risk of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. Special consideration needs to be taken on a case-by-case basis to determine if the benefits would outweigh the risks and long term affects.
Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators can provide the benefits of estrogen without the increased cancer risk. The side affects most often associated are hot flushes and increased risk of blood clots.
Bisphosphonates are probably the most popular type of medication used for both prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.
The two bisphosphonates currently approved for osteoporosis, alendronate and risedronate prevent bone loss and reduce the risk of spinal and hip fractures. They work to slow bone loss by increasing bone formation and decreasing bone turnover. Side effects include gastrointestinal distress, including constipation, abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea.
Calcitonins may be used to treat bone pain after a fracture from osteoporosis has occurred. These hormones respond to elevated calcium levels in the blood by increasing calcium stores in bone and elimination of calcium by the kidneys. These are typically used for only a short time and may cause nausea, vomiting, change in blood sugar, increased urinary frequency, runny and flushing of hands or face.
Parathyroid hormones are the newest treatment available. Their purpose is to regulate calcium in the blood and stimulate bone formation. This type of treatment is given as an injection and may cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, and unusual tiredness or weakness. Since they increase calcium levels blood will also be monitored as well as blood pressure.