The first 48 hours after being diagnosed with osteoporosis can be a scary and challenging time. But if your osteoporosis was detected after taking a bone densitometry test (DSX), count yourself lucky. The only other way to find out is far more painful – by sustaining a fracture.
Although osteoporosis – defined as a T-score of -2.5 or below on such a scan – is a serious, and sometimes deadly, disease, you have tremendous opportunities to safeguard your health in the years to come. As you discuss your health with your primary physician and other medical professionals, here are some of the issues you may want to keep in mind.
Tell Those You Trust about Your Osteoporosis. Since osteoporosis is not a readily observable disease, many individuals choose to keep their diagnosis private, sharing it only with their immediate family and closest friends or colleagues. Depending on your situation, you may also want to tell your grandchildren or other younger people who might otherwise hug you too hard or inadvertently create fall hazards such as leaving clutter on the floor or staircases. You may also want to consider your risk of falling at work or other places you frequent, and addressing these safety issues where possible.
Don’t Deny It to Yourself. While whom you choose to share the information with is ultimately up to you, it is important to remember that while keeping quiet is perfectly fine, doing nothing is not. It is vital to plan out – and stick with – a course of action recommended by your physician. This may include medications, weight-bearing exercise, and calcium and Vitamin D supplements, which recent studies have shown to be especially significant in preserving bone mass and muscle strength. If applicable, your physician may provide advice on quitting smoking, reducing drinking, or maintaining an appropriate weight, all factors that can reduce one’s risk of fracture.
Your primary doctor may advise you to see a specialist such as an endocrinologist or rheumatologist, and have follow-up bone densitometry scans every year or every other year. It is highly recommended that your follow your doctor’s instructions as closely as possible.
Know Your Medications. After being diagnosed with osteoporosis, it is important to ensure your medical professional has a complete list of all the medications you are presently taking, as well as your ongoing medical history. One reason is that long-term use of certain medicines can increase the risk of bone fractures, which is crucial information for osteoporosis patients and their doctors. In addition, some medicines – either over-the-counter or by prescription – may cause dizziness or disorientation, raising your chances of a fall.
Your doctor might choose to adjust the dose, substitute another medicine, or eliminate it entirely. Lastly, if your doctor plans to prescribe medication to try to rebuild your bone mass, there could be drug interactions or unintended side effects with some of your other medicines. Remember, never stop any medication without consulting with your doctor first.
Prevent Falls. The single biggest threat to somebody with osteoporosis is a bad fall. Now is the time to get those eyeglasses checked, put away anything you could trip over – including loose cables, pet food dishes, and throw rugs. You may want to consider installing grab bars in the bathroom and organizing closets and cabinets so you can reach all the items you need without a footstool. At all costs, avoid walking on slippery floors or outside in inclement weather. (For more advice on fall prevention, see HealthCentral expert Rose Chon’s article on preventing falls.
After receiving a diagnosis of osteoporosis, you may find yourself intimidated by T-scores and other medical jargon spinning through your head. Well-meaning friends and relatives may give you advice and share horror stories about their struggles with osteoporosis and even the medicine to combat it. While some patients “feel fine” and are tempted to skip these steps, or conversely, feel that bone loss is irreversible and “nothing can be done,” both these ideas are mistaken. With a good attitude and an ongoing commitment to your bone health, you may be able to enjoy a quality, fracture-free lifestyle for years to come.
Published On: May 29, 2007