The Side Effects of Common Osteoporosis Drugs
Common bisphosphonates include alendronate (Fosomax), risendronate (Actonel), and ibandronate (Boniva). They can be given intravenously or orally. Intravenous bisphosphonates can cause a temporary reaction similar to the flu, but this side effect is generally manageable with the help of an over-the-counter drug like Tylenol.Taken orally, bisphosphonates can cause upper gastrointestinal irritation and inflammation of the esophagus and stomach. A person may have heartburn or indigestion, or experience difficulty swallowing. Pain in bones and joints may also occur. Madeline Vann, MPH for EverydayHealth.com suggests that you talk to your doctor if you experience any level of pain.
In some rare cases, people taking bisphosphonates have experienced osteonecrosis of the jaw (the death of jaw bone tissue). But according to Vann most people who developed this had been taking higher than normal doses, due to cancer treatments. It is recommended that you take bisphosphonates for only as long as you need them, and a doctor might even suggest taking time off from daily doses.
When taking this medication, there is an increased likelihood of blood clots in the legs and lungs. This risk is extremely low in relatively healthy people. According to the researchers at Cleveland Clinic, blood clots usually occur within the first four months of treatment.
Hot flashes are another side effect of raloxifene. They are more common with women who are younger than 55 years old, have had a hysterectomy, or have previously experienced hot flashes. Leg cramps occur in about 5% of patients. Fluid retention and mild flu-like side effects can also occur, but they are temporary and can be managed with a doctors help.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is best known as a treatment for menopause-related symptoms such as hot flashes. According to Vann, there are few side effect to HRT if treatment lasts for a short time right after beginning menopause,. But if a woman is in her sixties or older, the risk of side effects increases. These side effects include: heart disease, blood clots, stroke, and breast cancer. Speak with your doctor about when to start and end this type of therapy.
According to WebMD, hormone replacement therapy will bring a womans estrogen levels back to premenopausal levels, which slows bone thinning and can even increase bone thickness. It helps prevent osteoporosis from developing, and can reduce the risk for hip fractures.
Because of the serious side effects, hormone replacement should only be used on women with a high risk of osteoporosis. Common side effects also include breast tenderness, headaches, and postmenopausal bleeding.
Teriparatide, a daily injection, is prescribed for severe cases of osteoporosis. Only those with truly low bone density or who have had fractures should take this medication, and Vann warns that Forteo should only be used for two years at the most.
Side effects of Forteo include: redness and tenderness at the site of injection, leg cramps, dizziness, muscle and joint pains, heart palpitations, and high calcium levels in the blood. In studies, rats that were given teriparatide have shown an increased rate of bone cancer, but no such cases have shown up in humans.