10 million people suffer from osteoporosis in the United States alone. Gynecology and obstetrics doctors are often the first medical professionals to recognize the signs of osteoporosis in women, which includes low bone density.
Low bone density is more common in postmenopausal women. As levels of estrogen decline, bone loss speeds up. Loss of bone density can increase the risk of fractures, pain, disability, and even death.
The good news is that osteoporosis treatment can help slow the progression of bone loss. Some can even reverse bone loss and rebuild new tissue. If you want to learn more about these treatments, keep reading this guide.
1. Understand Your Treatment Options
Medication and lifestyle changes are the top treatments for osteoporosis and other forms of bone loss. Not all options may be right for you. So, you must talk to your doctor about your options.
To give you an idea of what to expect, here are some of the possible treatments for osteoporosis in women.
Doctors typically prescribe bisphosphonates as the first line of defense against osteoporosis-related bone loss. These drugs are designed to stop or at least slow future loss of bone density in people with osteoporosis.
The most commonly prescribed bisphosphonate medications include:
- Zoledronic acid
These drugs can be administered as a weekly or monthly pill or via quarterly or annual IV infusions.
Bisphosphonates are not meant for lifelong use. Most doctors only prescribe them to be used for five years before switching patients to another drug.
Additionally, premenopausal women and people with kidney problems cannot use bisphosphonates and will be prescribed another drug instead.
One of the biggest drawbacks to bisphosphonates is that they only prevent future bone loss. They do not reverse the effects of osteoporosis.
Bone-building drugs promise to do what bisphosphonates can’t. These drugs are short-term solutions for people with extreme levels of bone density loss.
The most common bone-building drugs are teriparatide, abaloparatide, and romosozumab. These drugs are injectables. The first two require daily injections, while romosozumab is a monthly injectable.
These drugs are only designed for use over one or up to two years. Once you stop using them, you do not continue to experience bone-building benefits.
2. Some People Do Not Require Osteoporosis Medication
Some people with low bone density that is within a certain range do not need osteoporosis medication.
To identify what type of bone density loss you are dealing with, your doctor will assign you a T-score. T-scores are ratings that compare your bone density to that of a healthy 30-year-old’s bone mass.
A negative T-score score indicates declining bone density. A score of 0 to -1 means you are experiencing bone loss but not enough to receive a diagnosis. A score of -1 to -2.5 may mean you have osteopenia, the stage of bone density loss that comes before osteoporosis. A score of -2.5 defines osteoporosis.
Having osteopenia may mean you require medication if you also have a history of hip or spinal fractures and your fracture happened as a result of a fall while standing, not falling from a height.
Another reason someone with osteopenia may need medication is if they are at high risk for a bone fracture within the next 10 years. In these cases, the most commonly prescribed medication is bisphosphonates.
People who do not require osteoporosis medication may be recommended to make lifestyle changes to prevent further bone loss.
3. Know the Risks of Osteoporosis Medications
Doctors only prescribe a medication if they believe the treatment’s benefits outweigh its risks. However, all drugs come with at least some risk of negative side effects.
Bisphosphonate does not commonly cause side effects, but when it does, stomach, bone, and muscle pain and gastrointestinal issues are the top ones. Extremely rare but serious side effects include jaw bone degeneration and atypical femoral fractures.
Bone-building drugs like teriparatide and abaloparatide have been shown to cause bone cancer in animals. However, the same effects have not been replicated in humans, so we need more research to understand the risk.
Romosozumab is a newer drug, and we have less information about its side effects, especially in the long term. What we do know is that people with a history of stroke or heart attack should not use this medication.
4. You Can Supplement Treatment With Lifestyle Changes
People with lower bone loss T-score scores and some individuals with osteopenia may only need lifestyle changes to treat their condition. Others can supplement their medication with lifestyle changes.
Here are some of the most important changes you can make to promote bone density and reduce the risk of future fractures.
Exercise and physical activity are excellent for your bone health. The more muscle you have, the better supported your bones are. Additionally, improving your balance can reduce your risk of falling.
Of course, some types of exercises will put more stress on the skeletal system. That’s why women with osteoporosis should focus on low-impact cardiovascular and resistance workouts.
A nutritious diet is beneficial for all aspects of your health, including your bones. Focusing on bone-building vitamins and minerals like calcium and vitamin D are essential components of bone tissue.
Eating a healthful diet can also help with weight management, and high body weight is another risk factor for osteoporosis-related fractures.
Tobacco and Alcohol
Smoking cigarettes is one of the worst things you can do for your bone health. Nicotine slows the generation of bone cells, while the byproducts of combustion can prevent your body from using calcium correctly.
Alcohol does not have as direct of an impact on bone loss, especially if consumed in moderation. However, long-term or excessive alcohol use can impact bone density and increase the risk of osteoporosis-related fractures.
Gynecology and Obstetrics in Augusta
Overcoming osteoporosis is possible with medication and lifestyle changes. We hope this guide has demystified the options available to you and empowered you to get the medical care you deserve.
Do you need gynecology and obstetrics services in Augusta, GA? Women’s Health of Augusta offers comprehensive services at our state-of-the-art facility, so you’ll always have access to the compassionate care you need.
Contact us to schedule an appointment and learn more about your osteoporosis treatment options.