Osteoporosis is a long-term condition, one you and your health care team must manage carefully to avoid broken bones.

But COVID-19 has complicated the process of getting medical care, because experts recommend social distancing and limiting trips outside your house. You might be reluctant to visit your doctor’s office during a pandemic.

But sometimes, an in-person visit to your health care provider is the best choice. Here’s what you should know.

For Medications

Although you can take pills to treat osteoporosis, your treatment may include other medicines that you need to get in your doctor’s office, either through shots or intravenous (IV) infusions. They include drugs like:

  • Denosumab (Prolia), a shot you get every 6 months
  • Ibandronate (Boniva), a shot you get every 3 months
  • Romosozumab (Evenity), a shot you get once a month
  • Zoledronic acid (Reclast), a yearly IV infusion for most people

If the COVID-19 outbreak in your area is not too severe, you should stick to your treatment plan, even if it means a visit to your health care provider.

For Lab Work

Normally, your health care provider would draw blood on a regular basis to make sure your osteoporosis medicine is still safe for you. One possible complication with some of the drugs is hypocalcemia -- not enough calcium in your blood.

If you’ve been getting osteoporosis care for a while and your health is otherwise good, your doctor may be willing to postpone lab work while the COVID-19 risk in your area is high. That’s particularly true if your tests the previous year were normal.

But if you’re just starting treatment, you’ll probably need to visit the lab.

You’ll also need lab work if you have conditions other than osteoporosis that could affect your treatment, including kidney or thyroid problems.

What About Scans?

A bone density scan, also called a DEXA scan, uses X-rays to measure bone loss. The scan helps your doctor test the density of your bones and can spot bone loss and osteoporosis before you have a fracture.

During COVID-19, these scans are considered elective procedures. Whether you should go ahead with one will depend on the rules in place for your area. You and your doctor can reach a decision together. There are also other tools your doctor can use to measure your risk of breaking a bone. 

Why It Matters

Osteoporosis can be a dangerous condition. Broken bones ­-- especially broken hips -- seriously threaten your ability to live on your own. They can even cost you your life.  

It’s important to continue treatment so that you keep getting the benefits of your medicine. If you take denosumab, it’s especially key. If you stop that drug or others like it, you actually raise your risk of bone loss.

If You Go

If you and your doctor decide an in-person visit is best, take precautions to protect yourself. Steps you should take include:

  • Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other people.
  • Don’t touch your nose, eyes, or mouth.
  • If you can, use touch-free payment methods. If you can’t, sanitize your hands right after you pay.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water when you get home.

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