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RA and Osteoporosis

Women who have rheumatoid arthritis have an additional risk of osteoporosis as do Caucasian and Asian women. The hip, wrist and spine are common osteoporosis sites.

Bones are living tissue.

Like other human tissue, bone cells are continually being broken down and rebuilt. The inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis interferes with this process. Bone cells are not as easily replaced as the old cells are being broken down. Bones thin and become brittle. They become weak and are easily broken. This is osteoporosis.

A few years ago in the spring, I was working on my patio. I turned, caught my foot on the edge of a carpet and fell. The skin on the length of my forearm tore open. That was my concern. But at the same time I fractured the bones of several vertebrae. I did not realize that I had osteoporosis in the spine. The vertebrae had become fragile. I recovered. My fractures healed. Lucky for me.  

Where did my osteoporosis come from?

  • For one thing, I had a difficult to manage RA for seven years.  Inflammation contributes to the development of osteoporosis by interfering with the bone building process.
  • I had also been taking methotrexate for seven years. Methotrexate may contribute to the development of osteoporosis as do many other drugs.
  • I had been on a hormone to treat breast cancer. Another cause of bone loss.
  • Inactivity is another cause of osteoporosis. It is the old ‘use it or lose it’. I was not as active as I had been because I was living in pain.
  • Steroids are a notorious cause of bone loss. I had been on low dose steroids for years. There were times when steroids were the only treatment I had for my RA.

What to do to maintain bone health

  • Doctor recommended supplements of calcium and vitamin D.
  • Exercise both aerobic like walking and weightbearing using small weights
  • Keep your home safe: avoid using small rugs, clean up spills, avoid slippery areas. Fractures are dangerous especially as a person ages.
  • You may qualify for a medication such as Alendronate to treat osteoporosis.

Cleveland Clinic has an excellent article on osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis: Symptoms, Causes, Tests & Treatment (clevelandclinic.org)

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