Certain medications are linked to osteoporosis prevention. While every medication is designed to combat specific symptoms, sometimes, they can produce side effects that cause other issues.
Many people are unaware that some of the medications they take daily can cause depression, nausea, or even weaken their bones. Regardless of what kind of medications you take, it’s imperative that you understand the potential side effects that they can cause. This way, you’ll know how to best take care of yourself.
Osteoporosis Prevention and Medication
Medications work in a multitude of ways to achieve the results that patients need. While some medications are designed to add important compounds back into the body, others work by modifying the functions of various cells. While the end result of your medication is obviously meant to be helpful, the side effects of long-term use can sometimes cause new symptoms and health problems.
As research on varying medications continues, experts have found that certain prescriptions can result in weakened bones.
This most commonly occurs when patients take medications that:
- Impact the way your body breaks down Vitamin D
- Change the job of white blood cells
- Impact serotonin absorption
- Decrease the body’s ability to regenerate bone tissue
- Impact calcium absorption
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a medical condition that affects the strength of your bones. It is becoming increasingly common throughout the United States and can cause issues when an individual performs their day-to-day activities. Osteoporosis occurs when the body struggles to regenerate bone tissue as fast as it is absorbed, ultimately resulting in weak, brittle bones and limited function.
Over 10 million people across the United States currently suffer from osteoporosis. On top of that, there are over 40 million other people that have low bone density levels.
Symptoms of osteoporosis include:
- Easily fractured or broken bones.
- Brittle or breakable fingernails
- Loss of height in a relatively short amount of time
- Extreme lower back pain
- Bad posture that is painful to fix
- Shortness of breath that was not there before
Medications That May Increase Risk of Osteoporosis
There are multiple types of medications that can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. Learn about them below.
Corticosteroids, which are commonly called steroids, are a form of anti-inflammatory medication that can treat a collection of conditions and illnesses. Steroids are designed to act similarly to a hormone called cortisol, which your body naturally creates. Because corticosteroids work to halt the production of certain chemicals and modify white blood cells, taking them regularly for an extended period of time can also slow down bone regeneration.
As you age, your risk for weakened bones and osteoporosis induced by steroids increases. If you take any steroids regularly, you should consider monitoring your bone density.
Common corticosteroids include:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are a type of antidepressant that is most often prescribed to individuals who suffer from anxiety and depressive disorders. They are meant to increase the amount of serotonin in your body by blocking what is known as “reuptake.” Reuptake occurs when your body reabsorbs serotonin after it performs its duties. By prohibiting this reabsorption, more serotonin becomes available for use, which may allow you to better regulate difficult emotions like stress and sadness.
While the exact cause has not been determined, studies have found that taking multiple medications that affect serotonin or the prolonged use of SSRIs can increase your risk for weakened bones.
Popular SSRIs that are prescribed today include:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Citalopram (Cipramil)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that impacts the brain and causes random, repeating seizures. While there is no cure, there are medications and treatments that can help epileptic individuals manage their condition. Antiepileptic medications are meant to prevent sudden convulsions caused by neurological issues within the brain. However, research points to certain epilepsy medicines weakening the bones.
It has been found that some seizure medications, such as Carbamazepine, interfere with your body’s ability to convert vitamin D into its active form. If your body is unable to break down raw vitamin D into its active form, you cannot receive its full benefits. This can result in a deficiency and ultimately cause weak bones.
Progestins are artificial versions of a naturally occurring hormone called progesterone, which is found in much higher levels in women, but is necessary to aid in testosterone production in men. Progestins are commonly used in contraceptives ,but are also found in certain hormone replacement therapies.
Progestins are meant to act similarly to progesterone and aid the uterus by preparing its lining for fertilized eggs. While progesterone helps the body with bone regeneration, studies did find that certain progestins can lead to bone loss. However, other research shows that this loss should be reversible when an individual stops taking their medication.
Certain Diabetes Medications
When your body struggles to transport blood glucose to cells, where it can be converted into energy, you can be diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes can be challenging to manage, as your sugar levels are constantly changing. With the help of new medicines created in the past few decades, however, this condition has become easier to deal with. Although diabetes medications can be an immense help with regulating sugar within the body, some studies show that medicines like pioglitazone and canagliflozin can cause fragile, easily breakable bones.
Proton Pump Inhibitors
Proton pump inhibitors are a type of medicine that can be purchased both over the counter or with a prescription for chest and stomach pain. They were designed with the intention of limiting the amount of acid that your stomach creates. While beneficial for angina and acid reflux, certain PPIs like Nexium are now seemingly causing calcium absorption problems.
Calcium is an integral mineral that your body requires to consistently rebuild and repair your bones. Without it, your bone density can decrease, and your bone health can weaken quickly. It’s suspected that with prescription PPIs, which are more powerful, an individual may start to see lower bone density within just one year of beginning to use the product.
Unfractionated heparin is a medicine that was invented to help combat troublesome chest pain by decreasing the potential of blood clotting. It is a naturally occurring molecule that is found within the liver. Heparin is commonly given through an injection to patients who are having heart attacks, receiving important medical procedures, or have other issues that may induce blood clots.
While more research needs to be done, many studies performed on heparin found that it can start weakening the bones after just six months of regular, high doses. If you have been receiving heparin to treat unstable angina or other forms of chest pain, make sure that you have your bone health regularly monitored as well.
Who Is at Risk for Osteoporosis?
Everyone’s health is different, and so is their risk for osteoporosis. It’s vital that you understand certain risk factors that can increase your chances of having the condition to best fight it.
Generally, these groups of people are the most at-risk when it comes to being diagnosed with osteoporosis:
- Post-menopausal woman
- Men and women over 65
- Men with low testosterone levels
- People with vitamin D deficiencies
- People with calcium deficiencies
- People who take SSRIs long-term
- Thin people with “smaller” or weak bones
Osteoporosis Prevention Tips
While it can be upsetting to think that some of the medications you take can cause bone issues, there are ways that you can combat potential osteoporosis with your lifestyle. Try keeping these tips in mind if you’re worried about your bone health:
Eat a Healthy Diet
Your diet plays a massive role in your overall health. Maintaining a healthy diet is not only critical to help your body function properly, but it also helps to keep your bones in great shape. Eating food that is abundant in vitamins and nutrients gives your body the power it needs to stay healthy and fight conditions like osteoporosis. Consider eating foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D to give your body the extra kick it needs for better bone health.
Most doctors will recommend staying active throughout your life, especially as you age. This is because regular exercise has been proven to have a multitude of benefits for both the body and mind. For those who are worried about potential osteoporosis, regular exercise can help to preserve your mobility, keep your bones healthy, and fight common injuries. A variety of medical personnel suggests an exercise that targets your bones. Exercising even a few times a week for just 20 minutes can make a great difference in your life.
Do Not Smoke
Smoking is well-known for having side effects that can drastically affect your health. While most people are aware of its impact on their lungs, many of them don’t realize that smoking can also affect their bone health. Research has shown that smoking tobacco, especially mass-produced cigarettes, can result in brittle bones and increase your risk for osteoporosis in the future. This is due to chemicals creating problems with bone reabsorption, which ultimately causes poor bone regeneration.
Be Careful with Alcohol
Like smoking, alcohol also has the power to negatively affect your bone health. This is because your bones are a form of tissue that is constantly being replaced. When you drink too much alcohol for an extended period, it can begin to intervene with the processes of bone formation and reabsorption. This decreases your overall bone density and causes weak, easily broken bones that you must make sure you protect.
Limit Your Caffeine Intake
Many people are reliant on caffeine to give them a much-needed boost to start their day. However, caffeine has a variety of side effects that most people are unaware of or may blame on other issues. Too much caffeine can make you jumpy and anxious or even make you crash. In addition to how caffeine can make your body feel, regularly consuming high levels of it can also heighten your risk for osteoporosis. While the exact link between the two is not known yet, most researchers believe that caffeine’s ability to strip the bones of their calcium can later cause osteoporosis.
Go To Your Doctor Regularly
Osteoporosis does not occur instantaneously. This means that regular checkups can alert you if your bone health is deteriorating before this deterioration becomes severe. Going to your doctor regularly is important not only to keep up with your basic health but also when it comes to keeping your bones strong.
Annual checkups and bone density scans can help you keep a better eye on your bone health, allowing you to fight osteoporosis and keep yourself as healthy as possible. Regular bone density scans will allow your doctor to notice if your body is having issues with bone regeneration, which is usually an early sign of osteoporosis.
A Specialized Compounding Pharmacy Service Can Help You
While many people require medication to live their best lives, certain medications may not be ideal for everyone. At Compounding Pharmacy of America, our accomplished pharmacists work to create compounded medications that help treat our patients’ problems without making new ones.
We’re a specialized compounding pharmacy service, creating and combining medicines to combat side effects and provide results that our patients can benefit from. Many people that are struggling with osteoporosis or trying to prevent it come to our facility for specially-made supplements, vitamins, and pain medications.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published Apr 4, 2016 and has been updated June 28, 2023.
Chief Operating Officer, The Compounding Pharmacy of America
Matthew Poteet, Pharm.D. graduated with Honors from Lee University with a Bachelors of Science in Biological Science. After his undergraduate training, he completed the Doctor of Pharmacy program at Mercer University Southern School of Pharmacy, graduating in 2004. Dr. Poteet has spent much of his pharmacy career on staff at two of the most prestigious academic teaching hospitals in the Southeast; Emory University in Atlanta and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. At these institutions he received extensive experience and training in sterile products compounding.
He returned home to East Tennessee in 2010, where he has held the position of Pharmacy Director at two sterile products pharmacies in Knoxville. Matthew lives in Knoxville with his wife, Chris. Dr. Poteet is Tennessee’s first Board Certified Anti-Aging Pharmacist by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.