How Does MS Affect Osteoporosis?

Vicki Health Guide
  • Around half of people over 50 have osteoporosis. Regardless of age, however, there are millions who have early onset or great risk. If you have MS, you are probably one of them. If you have MS, whether you are a man or woman, and even if you are quite younger than 50 — it is likely that you also have Osteoporosis. How many MSers have it?

    If you have MS, whether you are a man or woman, you are at much greater risk of having osteoporosis than the general public.

    Lana posed a question asking about articles about MS and Osteoporosis. This one is for you, Lana, and for all of us who live with both of these conditions and those who do not yet know it.

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    October 20 was World Osteoporosis Day, organized by the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF).  This day is meant to raise global awareness of the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis. So, this week is a great reminder for you to chat with your doctor about the relationship between MS and Osteoporosis. Ask to schedule a bone density test. This is very important for your general health.

    What is Osteoporosis? It’s often thought of as the disease of little old women who are bent over. But it's not just women and it's not just old. Both men and women get osteoporosis, and some get it at an early age. There are positive steps you can take to prevent Osteoporosis if you do not already have it. If, however, you do, there are still things that can be done to ensure it does not advance to a severe condition. Osteoporosis means “porous bone” which essentially means a bone is especially weak and easily fractured.

    One day I was going to a dentist appointment and when getting into the car I heard a “pop.” I looked at my caregiver/sweetheart. He heard it, too. We made a doctor’s appointment to check it out. Yes, I had Osteoporosis and just getting into the car resulted in a bone fracture. Ouch. With Osteoporosis, fractures can be caused by the smallest movements — stepping off a curb, twisting a knee, getting into a car.

    Subsequently I took Fosomax, a corticosteroid that is a popular weekly oral treatment. After three years a bone scan showed no progress. I began taking a daily injection of Forteo, a treatment for more serious Osteoporosis. After three years a bone scan still showed no progress.  My third and current treatment is Miacalcin, applied with a spray in alternate nostrils each day.

    I see commercials for medications that promise rebuilding bones. I have taken three. I have had no side effects, but these treatments have not rebuilt my bones either. Osteoporosis may cause pain, especially around joints. Fractures may be painful, too, but they also have a risk of infection. I know everybody’s bones are breakable, but I have the funny feeling mine are extra breakable. Every time a bone is subject to a jolt, even a small jostle, that bone is also subject to the possibility of a fracture. MS, a chronic disease with a high chance of a sedentary lifestyle, increases the possibility of a fracture. Fractures can be caused by the smallest movements — stepping off a curb, twisting a knee, getting into a car. This is not to be taken lightly.


  • The bad thing is that many symptoms are not noticed as osteoporosis. For example, pain, even joint pain, may be caused by Osteoporosis but attributed to MS. My Osteoporosis was not found until it was already already advanced. My doctors were not at fault, because I was not yet at the age for bone scans. People with MS are at increased risk of osteoporosis at an early age  and should know that health care professionals, even the best health care professionals, often overlook that fact.

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    I had the warning signs: my mother had Osteoporosis, I had a chronic disease and took steroids, I am a white woman with small bones, and I drank colas. Fortunately, I did not smoke or drink alcohol more than moderately. Race, gender, build, medical conditions, family history, and age are all risk factors beyond our control. We can control drinking, smoking, calcium intake, diet, and other risk factors, but we may not realize it until bone density has been compromised.

    Remember, MS makes Osteoporosis “more common and more serious.”

    Concerned you might have Osteoporosis? Here is a short questionnaire that helps assess your risk. This is too important to leave to chance. Talk with your doctor about a bone density test.

    Notes and Links:
    MS and the Risk of Osteoporosis
    Merely Me’s interview with Pam Flores and me - MS and Osteoporosis  
    Relationship Between MS and Osteoporosis
    Mayo Clinic Osteoporosis Risk Factors
    Many Eyes Osteoporosis statistics based on race,  presented by Garry Jenkin

     

Published On: October 21, 2011