How to Treat Osteoporosis
Hormone replacement therapy has been used to prevent osteoporosis. It is not used to treat osteoporosis. Its use has been associated with increased risk for uterine cancer, strokes, blood clots and abnormal mammograms. When it is combined with progestin, it may increase the risk of heart disease and breast cancer in addition to increasing risk for strokes and blood clots. Consider these risks carefully if you and your doctor are considering using hormone replacement therapy to prevent osteoporosis.
Luckily, there are several medicines available for treatment of osteoporosis. Each of them has its own potential side effects, so if your doctor is considering prescribing one of them, be sure to ask about possible side effects and what to do if you experience any of them. Here's a list of medicines used to treat low bone density:
Bisphosphonates (Alenronate or Fosamax, Risedronate or Actonel, Ibandronate or Boniva and Zoledronic Acid or Zometa) reduce the breakdown of bone. They can be taken once a week or once a month. One type is given intravenously once a year. They are especially useful for people who have reduced bone density due to the use of steroids for asthma or arthritis. They must be used carefully because they can cause nausea, abdominal pain and ulcers of the esophagus. People who have acid reflux may not be able to tolerate them. These medicines can cause problems with the jawbone. This has been seen more often with the intravenous form of bisphosphonate and tends to occur in people who have an injured jaw from a tooth extraction or cancer treatment.
Raloxifene (Evista) increases bone density in a way similar to estrogen but does not appear to increase the risk of uterine cancer or breast cancer. It can cause hot flashes and should not be used if you have a history of blood clots. This medicine is approved only for use in women, not men.
Calcitonin is a hormone that your body produces. It reduces breakdown of bone and can slow bone loss. It can be administered as a nasal spray, which can cause irritation. It can also be given as an injection. It's not as effective as bisphosphonates.
Teriparatide (Forteo) is very powerful and is similar to one of the hormones your body makes. It is used to treat postmenopausal women and men likely to have fractures. It causes new bone to be laid down but doesn't stop loss of bone. It's given once a day by injection. Because its long-term effects are still being studied, the FDA recommends that it be used for no more than 2 years.
Tamoxifen is a synthetic hormone that is used to treat breast cancer. It has an estrogen-like effect on bone cells and reduces risk of fractures. Possible side effects include hot flashes, stomach upset and vaginal dryness or discharge.
Latest Treatment Options for Osteoporosis
There are numerous ongoing studies of new medicines and currently available medicines in new combinations or dosages to treat osteoporosis. The majority of currently available medicines work by preventing the breakdown of bone. Research is focused on medicines that increase the formation of new bone. In addition, the Mayo Clinic has developed a physical therapy program for people with osteoporosis. It is designed to reduce back pain, improve posture and reduce falls. It uses a harness with a weight attached to it. People perform back extension exercises while wearing the harness.