National Women's Health Information Center
Osteoporosis (oss-tee-oh-puh-ro-sis) is a condition that means your bones are weak, and you’re more likely to break a bone. Since there are no symptoms, you might not know your bones are getting weaker until you break a bone!
A broken bone can really affect a woman’s life. It can cause disability, pain, or loss of independence. It can make it harder to do daily activities without help, such as walking. This can make it hard to participate in social activities. It can also cause severe back pain and deformity.
What bones does osteoporosis affect?
Osteoporosis can happen to any of your bones, but is most common in the hip, wrist, and in your spine, also called your vertebrae ( ver-tuh-bray). Vertebrae are important because these bones support your body to stand and sit upright.
Osteoporosis in the vertebrae can cause serious problems for women. A fracture in this area occurs from day-to-day activities like climbing stairs, lifting objects, or bending forward
- Sloping shoulders
- Curve in the back
- Height loss
- Back pain
- Hunched posture
- Protruding abdomen
Do men get osteoporosis?
Before the 1990s, we used to think only women got osteoporosis. Now we know that men also have to worry about weak bones. In fact, one in four men over age 50 will suffer a fracture caused by osteoporosis. But women are still four times more likely than men to develop osteoporosis because of the loss of estrogen at menopause. Estrogen blocks or slows down bone loss.
How is osteoporosis treated?
Lifestyle changes and medical treatment are part of a total program to prevent future fractures. A diet rich in calcium, daily exercise, and drug therapy are treatment options. Good posture and prevention of falls can lower your chances of being injured.
These drugs are approved for the treatment or prevention of osteoporosis:
Alendronate (Fosamax®). This drug belongs to a class of drugs called biophosphonates and is approved for both prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. It is used to treat bone loss from the long-term use of osteoporosis-causing medications and is used for osteoporosis in men. In postmenopausal women, it has shown to be effective at reducing bone loss, increasing bone density in the spine and hip, and reducing the risk of spine and hip fractures
Risedronate (Actonel®). Like Alendronate, this drug also is a biophosphonate and is approved for both prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, for bone loss from the long-term use of osteoporosis-causing medications, and for osteoporosis in men. It has been shown to slow bone loss, increase bone density, and reduce the risk of spine and non-spine fractures.
Calcitonin (Miacalcin®). Calcitonin is a naturally occurring hormone involved in calcium regulation and bone metabolism. Calcitonin can be injected or taken as a nasal spray. In women who are at least five years beyond menopause, it slows bone loss and increases spinal bone density. Women report that it also eases pain associated with bone fractures.
Raloxifene (Evista®). This drug is a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) that has many estrogen-like properties. It is approved for prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and can prevent bone loss at the spine, hip, and other areas of the body. Studies have shown that it can decrease the rate of vertebral fractures by 30-50%.
Estrogen therapy (ET), or Hormone Therapy (HT). These drugs, which have been used to treat the symptoms of menopause, also are used to prevent bone loss. But recent studies suggest that this might not be a good option for many women. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made the following recommendations for taking ET and HT:
- Take the lowest possible doses of ET or HT for the shortest period of time to manage symptoms of menopause.
- Talk about using other osteoporosis medications instead.
Parathyroid Hormone or Teriparatide (Fortéo®). This form of parathyroid hormone is approved for the treatment of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women and men who are at high risk for a fracture. It helps new bone to form and increases bone density. It has been shown to reduce fractures in postmenopausal women in the spine, hip, foot, ribs, and wrist. In men, it can reduce fractures in the spine. A patient gives it to herself as a daily injection for up to 24 months.