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    Can You Reverse Osteoporosis?

    5 questions and answers about osteoporosis treatment.

    3. What Will Osteoporosis Drugs Do for Me? continued...

    There are several types of osteoporosis drugs, which are available by prescription only:

    Some types of osteoporosis drugs slow bone breakdown, which is part of bone's natural and ongoing remodeling process. Others spur new bone growth.

    How good is the resulting bone? "The quality of the new bone is probably very good," Cosman says. "But the quality of your overall bone may not be back to normal."

    4. What About Side Effects?

    All classes of osteoporosis drugs have possible side effects.

    For instance, there have been rare reports of "jaw death" (osteonecrosis of the jaw) in patients taking bisphosphonates, the most widely used type of osteoporosis drug. There have also been rare reports of thigh bone (femur) fractures in people taking bisphosphonates for a long time, but it's not clear if the drugs caused that. And the newest osteoporosis drug, Prolia, may cause low blood calcium levels and could increase infection risk, because it targets a chemical in the immune system.

    As with any drug, you and your doctor need to weigh the risks and benefits.

    5. What Lifestyle Measures Help?

    If you have osteoporosis, doctors often recommend that you do the following, besides taking osteoporosis drugs:

    • Get enough vitamin D and calcium. Both are needed for bone health, and many people don't get enough of either. The Institute of Medicine is reviewing its vitamin D and calcium guidelines. Meanwhile, ask your doctor what you need in terms of supplements and exposure to sunlight, which helps your body make vitamin D.
    • Physical activity. Weight-bearing exercise -- such as walking or weight training -- is key for bone health. Check with your doctor about what's appropriate for you.
    • Don't smoke. Smoking can weaken your bones.
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    Reviewed on July 15, 2010

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