Selecting the most effective osteoporosis medication Selecting the most effective osteoporosis medication

Did you know that right now as you’re reading this, your bones are undergoing a state of regeneration? Known as bone turnover, the cells in your bones are constantly breaking down to make way for new cells to replace them. This process goes unnoticed by most people, even after it starts to slow down as you grow older.

As you age, you’ll experience a gradual loss of bone density because your new cells aren’t replacing old ones as quickly as they used to. It’s perfectly normal to lose bone density throughout your lifetime and it shouldn’t cause any issues. However, some people develop a condition called osteoporosis that significantly slows down the regeneration process. Bones affected by osteoporosis eventually become brittle, weak, and more susceptible to fractures and breaks. Something as simple as a minor tumble can end up causing serious bone fractures.

This may sound grim, but if you're diagnosed with osteoporosis all hope isn’t lost. There are several effective medications and treatments available that can help to slow down osteoporosis bone loss and help you continue living a happy, healthy life.

What Causes Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis can happen to anyone, but occurs most often to menopausal and post-menopausal women. Other risk factors for osteoporosis include long-term steroid use, hormonal disorders, a family history of osteoporosis, alcoholism, and malnutrition.

One of the best ways to prevent osteoporosis is by eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D as these minerals will help keep your bones strong and healthy. Weight bearing exercises like walking and hiking will also help strengthen your bones.

Your bone density reaches its peak around age 30 so the higher your bone density is at this age, the less likely you’ll be to develop osteoporosis. After the age of 30, you should still diet and exercise in a way that promotes healthy bones. Even if you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, these lifestyle habits can help slow down the disease especially if done while taking osteoporosis medications.

Choosing the Right Osteoporosis Medication

If you suspect you have osteoporosis, make an appointment with your GP. Osteoporosis is usually diagnosed with a type of scan called a DEXA scan. It uses dual energy x-ray absorptiometry to measure your bone density via a scale called a T-score. Your T-score is then compared to the bone density to that of a healthy 30 year old woman.

A diagnosis of osteoporosis involves several factors, but if you have a t-score of -2.5 or lower you may have osteoporosis. Your doctor will also check your medical history for a history of fractures, especially if they occurred from a fall while you were standing.

Depending on your T-score, you may be prescribed medication to treat your osteoporosis. These medications will help prevent further bone loss and bone fractures. 

If your T-score isn’t deemed to be in a high risk range, your doctor will usually follow osteoporosis treatment guidelines and start you off with a class of drugs known as bisphosphonates. Bisphosphonates work by slowing down bone loss, helping you to keep the bone density you already have and to prevent hip and spinal fractures. In some cases, you may even regain some bone density.

There are several different types of bisphosphonates and they can be taken orally, through an IV, or via an injection. Which type you’ll be prescribed will depend on the progression of your disease and your symptoms.

Symptoms that may be taken into account include:

  • Where your bone loss is centred
  • If you’ve lost 2 or more inches in height
  • Fracture history and where those fractures occurred in your body
  • Whether you have a history of gastrointestinal problems like acid reflux

Most people are initially prescribed bisphosphonates as pills like Bonviva Ibandronic Acid Tablets. They should start working within 4 weeks, but it can take 6-12 months for your bones to be fully protected from future loss or fracture. The average course of treatment is 3-5 years and once you stop taking it you should continue to have up to 5 more years of protection. 

Are There Risks with Bisphosphonates?

Bisphosphonates shouldn’t cause any side effects if they’re taken as directed by a medical professional. If you do experience any initial side effects, these should subside as your system adjusts to the new medication.

Reported side effects include:

  • Flu like symptoms
  • Rashes
  • Mouth pain
  • Light sensitivity
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches and pains

There’s some concern that bisphosphonates are linked to serious conditions like femur fractures and osteonecrosis of the jaw. Osteonecrosis of the jaw, or bone death within the jaw, occurs when the jaw doesn’t fully heal after an invasive dental procedure. Your risk of osteonecrosis is higher if you have cancer, are undergoing chemotherapy, or if you have frequent dental infections that require treatment.

These serious side effects are extremely rare and hardly ever happen to people who have been taking bisphosphonates for a short period of time. Instead, these complications occur most often in those who take IV bisphosphonates as part of cancer treatment and in women who take high doses of bisphosphonates for several years. Therefore, you generally won’t be prescribed a bisphosphonate for longer than 3-5 years. The risk of complications goes up if you’ve been taking bisphosphonates for longer than 5 years.

It's important to remember that your health care provider has prescribed you medication because they feel the benefits of the treatment outweigh any potential risks. You should have regular check-ins with your GP and report any serious pain or side effects right away so they can determine whether the medication is still right for you.

Treatment for Osteoporosis from Pharmacy Planet

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