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Osteoporosis Health Center

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When to Call the Doctor About Osteoporosis

If you have osteoporosis or think you might have osteoporosis, call your health care provider to be evaluated. Sooner is better than later -- especially if you have unusual or sharp pain or other related symptoms or if you have anxiety about osteoporosis. Also if you're at high risk of osteoporosis but haven't been diagnosed yet, talk to your health care provider. Getting treatment early can save you from painful, disfiguring fractures and future disability.

If you are taking osteoporosis drugs and develop jaw pain, call your health care provider. This may be a sign of a rare complication of treatment called osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ). Osteonecrosis means that part of the bone in the jaw is no longer alive. Unlike normal bone, it can't regenerate itself because it has no blood supply. More than a thousand cases of ONJ have been reported in patients who take drugs classified as bisphosphonates.

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There are also other reasons to call your health care provider. If you're in one or more of the following situations, go ahead and make that call.

1. You Wonder if You’re at Risk for Osteoporosis

Any of the following concerns is a good reason to make an appointment to see your health care provider:

  • you have two or more risk factors for osteoporosis
  • you are anxious about osteoporosis and have not yet been diagnosed
  • you are over 65 and have not yet had a bone density test
  • you are over 60 and have risk factors for osteoporosis such as taking prednisone for a medical condition
  • you wonder if one of the new osteoporosis drugs may help prevent further bone loss

2. You Take Osteoporosis Medications

Call your health care provider if you are taking medications for osteoporosis and you have these symptoms:

  • heartburn
  • stomach pain
  • painful swallowing after taking your medication
  • jaw pain
  • bone or joint pain

 

3. You Worry About a Bone Fracture

Call your health care provider if you have one or more of the following symptoms of a spinal fracture:

  • sudden, severe back pain
  • worsening of pain when standing or walking
  • some pain relief when lying down
  • difficulty and pain when bending or twisting
  • loss of height
  • deformity of the spine -- the curved, "hunchback" shape

Also call your health care provider if:

  • You've had one fracture and have sudden bone pain. That sudden bone pain can indicate another fracture.
  • You experience height loss. With each fracture of a spinal bone, the bone loses some of its height. Eventually, after several collapsed vertebrae, shorter stature will be noticeable.
  • You notice a curved back. Spinal fractures often create wedge-shaped vertebral bones. These make the spine bend forward. Eventually, neck and back pain may develop as the body tries to adapt.
  • You have stomach complaints. A shorter spine can compress the stomach, and may cause digestive problems like constipation, less appetite, and weight loss.
  • You have hip pain. The shorter spine brings the rib cage closer to your hip bones. If the rib and hip bones are rubbing against each other, you will feel discomfort and pain.
  • You have breathing problems. If the spine becomes severely compressed, your lungs may not function properly and breathing can be seriously affected.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 24, 2013

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