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.
For many people, hearing "You have osteoporosis" is startling.
Some hear it in the hospital after breaking a hip. Others get the news after getting a bone density test.
Osteoporosis is most common in women after menopause, people with osteoporosis in their family, and people with a small frame. But others can also get it, raising their risk of bone fractures.
Cutting that risk is crucial. About half of women and a quarter of men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture, notes...
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.