Question: Is there anything I can do to avoid developing osteoporosis as a result of rheumatoid arthritis?
Answer: The inflammation that rheumatoid arthritis begets does take its toll on bones. And osteoporosis is much more common in rheumatoid arthritis patients independent of the factors that cause osteoporosis in the first place. That is, in women, menopausal state is a serious problem for the development of osteoporosis, and compounding that, if they have rheumatoid arthritis, it only adds to this problem. So, it should be screened for on a regular basis to make certain that osteoporosis is not developing in a rheumatoid arthritis patient.
And early intervention with the available drugs is now thought to be of importance, particularly if patients are taking corticosteroids or prednisone, a commonly used treatment in rheumatoid arthritis. This will greatly accelerate the development of osteoporosis, and that can be substantially mitigated by the simultaneous use of one of the bisphosphonate drugs -- three of which are now available on the market, and two now available intravenously for patients who cannot take them orally.
So there's a wide array of treatments available to prevent and/or treat osteoporosis. And there's some evidence that these drugs may actually slow the degradation of bones from the immune reaction in the joints, so there may be another benefit of using them alongside other treatments for this disease as well.
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