Every year on October 20th is World Osteoporosis day. This day is dedicated to raising awareness about the brittle bone disease Osteoporosis. This year’s theme is Love your bones! I know this may seem a little odd to write a post about a different disease that is not IBD, but I was recently diagnosed with Osteoporosis due to steroid (prednisone) use and want to spread some awareness about this disease and what better day than a day dedicated to Osteoporosis?
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by brittle bones and increased risk of fractures that typically affects older post-menopausal women. However, the disease can be caused by other factors such as prednisone use. This is relevant to IBD patients because prednisone use is common. If you have ever been on prednisone for any amount of time, you know the awful side effects that come with taking this drug. It can get you out of a flare quickly and has saved me many times from horrible flares, but it can cause some serious damage especially to the bones. I have shared my story about having four total hip replacements by age 24 due to prednisone causing a rare bone disease called avascular necrosis, now I have steroid-induced osteoporosis.
Who is at risk?
Any patient who has been on prednisone needs to have a bone scan. Getting a baseline bone scan before starting prednisone would be the best option, but if not your bones need to be monitored. A lot of times it is not requested to have the test performed as often as it should be so you the patient need to advocate for yourself to make sure your bones are being monitored. That is what World Osteoporosis is about, urging patients to take care of their bones whether you are on steroids or already have osteoporosis there are ways to make sure you are doing everything you can to have healthy bones or rebuild those bones.
How to maintain healthy bones.
Here are some tips to help love your bones:
1.) Get a bone scan! This is one of the most important things you can do if you are at risk for osteoporosis or have been on prednisone for any amount of time. Ask your physician about getting tested!
2.) Get your vitamin D and calcium levels checked. Often IBD patients are malnourished because of the disease, and this can lead to low levels of essential nutrients and also low vitamin D and calcium which are important for bone health.
3.) Diet and Exercise. Now, I know this is a tough one for IBD patients because often we can’t eat much or tolerate certain foods and do not have the energy to exercise but if you already have osteoporosis this is critical. Even if it is adding in nutritional supplements and doing the low-level exercise once a week is better than not doing anything at all.
4.) Being aware of your risk for osteoporosis and talking with your physician. If you have been on steroids or are considering starting steroids make sure you tell your doctor you would like to have your bones checked and monitored. Osteoporosis is not painful unless you fracture a bone and sometimes breaking a bone is when you find out you have the disease so being proactive about it is critical in the prevention and managing the disease.
Osteoporosis can be a serious illness if not treated which makes it essential to be proactive about bone health if you are at risk for the disease. I have recently started remineralization medications and also joined a gym to help with my disease and to prevent fractures hopefully. Prednisone can be a life-saving drug, and I would take it again (still do some days) if it meant keeping me from surgery and hospitalizations, but with that comes ensuring we as patients are proactive about our bone health. So on this World Osteoporosis Day 2016, I urge you to be proactive in your bone health and speak with your physician about getting a bone density scan and checking your vitamin D and calcium levels. Love them bones!