The bones of older women often get more and more brittle because they are becoming less and less dense. Osteoporosis is the disease name for this process, and people who suffer from it break bones more easily than normal.
If you're one of the 34 million Americans (women and men) who are at risk for the disease, you know that strengthening and protecting your bones is crucial. Osteoporosis means porous bones that weaken and can fracture with even minor incidents.
Some 55% of people 50 and older have osteoporosis or reduced bone mass. But "you can live with osteoporosis for a long, long time and never have complications such as fractures -- if you take certain precautions," says Felicia Cosman, MD, osteoporosis expert...
There's good news, though: There may be other ways to prevent, and even treat, bone loss.
"In the past 5 or 10 years, we have recognized that osteoporosis is a very treatable disease," says Bruce Ettinger, MD, senior investigator in the research division of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in Oakland, Calif. "The old idea that you can't treat it, you can only prevent it, is out the window. We have new medications now that markedly reduce women's risk of fracture and we have other and perhaps even better medications coming soon."
A June 13, 2001 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) editorial notes that the estrogen therapies prevent postmenopausal bone loss but also that other drugs (even calcium and vitamin D) decrease the risk of fractures independently of how dense or porous a woman's bones are. For that reason they are approved by the FDA not just to prevent osteoporosis but also to treat it.
Raloxifene is the SERM that is FDA approved for osteoporosis therapy. Calcitonin increases bone density in the spine and reduces the risk of spinal fractures but does not seem to reduce fractures of the hip and other bones. When injected, it may cause an allergic reaction, urinary frequency, or nausea in some people, though these side effects were not reported when calcitonin was taken as a nasal spray.