Osteoporosis Questions and Answers

Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis

Q: Is the test for osteoporosis painful?

A: No! A BMD test is safe, quick and painless. Simple measurements are usually taken of the bones in your hip, wrist and spine. You typically remain clothed during the procedure. No dyes are injected. There are several types of BMD tests; some may use a very small amount of radiation, while others do not. Talk with your health care professional to learn more about the procedure and to further alleviate any fears you may have about this simple exam and, be sure to ask your health care professional what your test results mean, when you get them.

Q: My health care professional recommended that I start working out with weights, but I'm afraid of lifting such heavy weights. What should I do?

A: Good news: You don't have to lift heavy weights to benefit from strength training. You should lift a light amount of weight and gradually increase your threshold as your strength increases. The goal is to build bone and muscle strength - not muscle mass, which requires numerous lifts with heavy weights. So enjoy this important activity and work at your own pace. Just remember, if you do not routinely exercise, ask your health care professional to recommend a simple, safe program and start soon.

Q: What medications are available to prevent and treat osteoporosis?

A: There are several medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the prevention and/or treatment of osteoporosis. These medications may postpone bone loss indefinitely, but only when they are taken regularly. Medications currently available include postmenopausal hormone therapy- which are most often prescribed to relieve the symptoms associated with menopause - and the drugs alendronate (Fosamax), calcitonin (Miacalcin), raloxifene (Evista) and risedronate (Actonel). Teriparatide (Forteo), a new drug approved by the FDA in 2002, is the first medication that actually stimulates bone formation instead of slowing the breakdown of bone, as do some other osteoporosis drugs. As with any medication therapy, there are risks and side effects associated with each of these medications. Ask your health care professional for more information.

New studies published in July 2002 suggest that the health risks associated with use postmenopausal hormone therapy outweigh the benefits of using it for most women.

As a result of the studies, the FDA now requires a new, highlighted and boxed warning on all estrogen products for use by postmenopausal women. The so-called "black box" is the strongest step the FDA can take to warn consumers of potential risks from a medication. The warning highlights the increased risk for heart disease, heart attacks, stroke and breast cancer from supplemental estrogen - risks identified by at least one of the major studies.

The "black-box" warning also advises health care professionals to prescribe estrogen products at the lowest dose and for the shortest possible length of time.

New, lower-dose versions of the hormone therapies used to treat symptoms of menopause are currently being developed. The FDA recently approved a low-dose version of the combination estrogen-progestin treatment sold as Prempro.

Ask your health care professional about the risks and benefits of any recommended treatment and how they apply to your individual health needs and personal health history.

Copyright 2003 National Women's Health Resource Center Inc. (NWHRC)


More to Explore