Osteoporosis is a disease that affects your bones. It means you have bones that are thin and brittle, with lots of holes inside them like a sponge. This makes them easy to break. It also increases your risk for spine and hip fractures. These fractures can be disabling and make it hard for you to live on your own.
Your bones naturally get thinner as you age, making them more likely to break. But whether you take medicine or not, healthy habits can protect your bones and prevent bone loss. Take calcium and vitamin D supplements. Get regular weight-bearing exercise, and cut back on alcohol. If you smoke, quit.
Bisphosphonates are the most common medicines used to prevent bone loss in people who have osteoporosis. They slow the way bone dissolves and is absorbed by your body. They can increase bone thickness and strength.
Bisphosphonates aren't right for everyone. Depending on your health, your doctor may suggest other medicines to help prevent bone loss. Your doctor may also suggest these other medicines if you are having a problem with side effects from bisphosphonates.
Other medicines include:
Women who have gone through menopause can take bisphosphonates instead of hormone replacement therapy for osteoporosis. But bisphosphonates won't help with menopause symptoms.
Studies show that bisphosphonates increase bone thickness and may lower the risk of fractures.1
Most of these medicines should be taken in the morning with a full glass of water at least 30 minutes before eating a meal, drinking a beverage, or taking any other medicine. If your doctor prescribes the form of risedronate called Atelvia, take it right after breakfast with a glass of water.
Zoledronic acid is injected into a vein in your arm. Most people who use it get just one dose each year. One form of ibandronate is also given in a vein, usually every 3 months.
If you have osteoporosis, you should also take calcium and vitamin D supplements. Take them at least 2 hours before or after you take these medicines.
If you take the medicines as prescribed, side effects are not common. But they can include:
If you start taking these medicines and have problems with side effects, you can try other medicines. Talk with your doctor.
Your doctor may want you to have a follow-up bone density test after you have been on treatment. If this is suggested for you, it will be done no more than every 2 years. Getting follow-up tests doesn't make your treatment work better.
Your doctor may suggest that you take bisphosphonates if:
|Take bisphosphonates||Don't take bisphosphonates|
|What is usually involved?|
|What are the benefits?|
|What are the risks and side effects?|
Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.
These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.
"I was taking hormone therapy for osteoporosis but decided to quit after reading about the risks. I decided to try bisphosphonate medicines to protect against osteoporosis. I have small bones like my mother, and she suffered terribly in her old age from a collapsed spine."
— Clarissa, age 60
"I have terrible hot flashes. Taking hormones has saved my sanity. I guess I'll continue to take them for a few more years. In the meantime, my doctor tells me that I won't need to take other medicines to prevent osteoporosis."
— Joy, age 49
"I broke my hip when I fell in the bathroom. My doctor says I have osteoporosis and that I should take medicine to prevent more broken bones. I guess I better take it."
— Jaime, age 71
"I tried taking Fosamax (a bisphosphonate medicine) for osteoporosis, but it gives me terrible heartburn no matter how careful I am taking it. I'm going to ask my doctor for something else."
— Brenda, age 65
Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.
Reasons to take bisphosphonate medicines
Reasons not to take bisphosphonates
I think this medicine is the best way for me to prevent bone fractures.
I think adopting healthy habits is the best way for me to prevent bone fractures.
I don't mind taking pills or getting shots if it means protecting my bones.
I don't like the idea of taking pills or getting shots.
I stopped taking hormones, and I'm worried about bone loss.
I haven't been taking hormones.
I'm not worried about the side effects of these medicines.
I am worried about the side effects of these medicines.
My other important reasons:
My other important reasons:
Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.
NOT taking bisphosphonates
1. Can bisphosphonate medicines help prevent bone fractures?
2. Can healthy habits also help protect your bones?
3. Are bisphosphonates the only medicines you can take for osteoporosis?
1. Do you understand the options available to you?
2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?
3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?
1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?
2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.
3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.