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Osteoporosis Shot: July 19, 2011

Charlene Greenfield is in great shape. Good thing because she’s fighting a battle against osteoporosis.

“When I got my first bone density test, I was shocked cause I’m very healthy.”

Osteoporosis is most common in women over the age of 50. It’s a condition where the body loses calcium and vitamin D, which drastically affects bone health.

“What happens is as the calcium leaches out of the bones the bones become fragile brittle and are at greater risk to break,” says Dr. David Heligman, an orthopedic surgeon on the Lee Memorial Health System medical staff.

In early stages, doctors recommend calcium supplements, but as the condition worsens treatment moves to drug therapies, ranging from daily pills to yearly IV infusions.

“They all work very well in helping to reduce the number of fractures in women going forward but they also have side effects,” says Dr. Heligman.

Chief among them: upset stomach. It caused Charlene to throw in the towel.

“So I quit doing that, I went to just taking my calcium and vitamin D supplements, diet, resistive exercises, and I’ve been doing that but my scores have been continuing to go down.”

So her doctor recommended a new drug.

“The new medication that came out is called Prolia which is a biological drug meaning its really like an antibody that affects those cells that remove calcium from the bones,” says Dr. Heligman.

It’s a twice a year injection that promises the same result without disrupting the stomach.

“The biggest side effect is GI intolerance to the pill medication and that’s pretty much eliminated,” says Dr. Heligman.

With two shots and one year under her belt, Charlene hopes she’s winning her bone battle.