Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become brittle and more likely to fracture (break). With osteoporosis, the bones lose density. Bone density measures the amount of bone tissue that is in your bones.
A diagnosis of osteoporosis means you are at risk of bone fractures even if you do not have a severe bone injury.
When are medicines used?
Your doctor may prescribe medicines to help lower your risk of fractures. These medicines make the bones in your hips, spine, and other areas denser.
Your doctor is more likely to prescribe medicines if:
This drug may also help decrease the risk of heart disease and breast cancer.
Denosumab (Prolia) is a medicine that slows weakening of bones. This medicine:
Is give as an injection every 6 months
May increase bone density more than bisphosphonates
Does not cause stomach upset compared with other medicines taken by mouth
May not be a good choice for persons who have weak immune systems or who take medicines that affect the immune system
For a time, estrogen and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) were frequently used to prevent osteoporosis. But they are rarely used for this purpose now. If a woman is taking estrogen already, she and her doctor must discuss the risks and benefits of doing so.
When to call your doctor
Call your doctor for these symptoms or side effects:
Chest pain, heartburn, or problems swallowing
Nausea and vomiting
Blood in your stool
Swelling, pain, redness in one of your legs
Fast heart beat
Lewiecki EM. In the clinic. Osteoporosis. Ann Intern Med. 2011 Jul 5;155(1):ITC1-1-15; quiz ITC1-16.
Park-Wyllie LY, Mamdani MM, Juurlink DN, Hawker GA, Gunraj N, Austin PC, et al. Bisphosphonate use and the risk of subtrochanteric or femoral shaft fractures in older women. JAMA. 2011 Feb 23;305(8):783-9.
National Osteoporosis Foundation. 2014 Clinician's Guide to Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis. April 1, 2014. http://nof.org/files/nof/public/content/file/2791/upload/919.pdf. Accessed on May 15, 2014.
C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.