Living with Lupus

Osteoporosis, Bone Health, & Lupus

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The connection between osteoporosis, bone tissue damage, and lupus. #LupusWarriors are at a greater risk for this health condition that can lead to fractures.

Osteoporosis is a concern for all people as they age, but females #LupusWarriors are at an increased risk of developing the condition. It is a condition where—overall—the bones become less dense making people who have osteoporosis more at risk to bone spurs and breaks.

Other variables that put people more at risk for developing osteoporosis are:

  • slight frames and thinness
  • a family history of osteoporosis
  • being postmenopausal and particularly having had early menopause
  • abnormal absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea)
  • prolonged use of certain medications
  • low calcium intake
  • lack of physical activity
  • smoking
  • excessive alcohol intake

Is Osteoporosis an Indirect or Direct Cause of Lupus?

The connection between lupus and osteoporosis is becoming clearer. Studies have shown that having lupus significantly increases the chance of developing osteoporosis. And, lupus can lead to bone tissue damage as well.

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Glucocorticoids & Bone Deterioration

Many medications used to treat lupus can have an impact on bone health. Glucocorticoids—or steroid hormones—are commonly used for short periods of symptom relief. Inhaled and/or taken orally, glucocorticoids are used for inflammatory, allergic, and autoimmune therapies.

Studies have shown that taking glucocorticoids in high doses can inhibit bone formation. Generally, for #LupusWarriors, these types of medications are administered in low doses.

However, even in low doses, some research shows that glucocorticoids studies may increase the risk of organ damage for people with lupus. Always speak with your lupus treatment team to learn more about potential risks and benefits of treatments.


Inactivity & Osteoporosis

#LupusWarriors know that flares and increases in symptoms can make simple tasks a major challenge. And, they can cause a person to debilitated for days or weeks at a time. For those who experience flares on a monthly basis, osteoporosis might begin to develop because of inactivity.

Just like muscles, bones are made from tissue and constantly developing. (Of course, there is a decrease in growth potential as people age.)

Inflammation and Bone Tissue Death

When #LupusWarriors experience chronic inflammation of the connective tissues, this can affect the blood supply to bones. As a result, bone death—different from bone-density loss—can occur.

Bone death or bone tissue damage is different from osteoporosis. Bone tissue damage is more isolated. Although certain bones are more susceptible to fractures when there is a diagnosis of osteoporosis, this condition affects the density of all bones in the body.


Prevention and Treatment for Osteoporosis

A Healthy Diet

Every woman under the age of 30 should focus on getting enough calcium in their diet. At 30, the body has a more difficult time retaining calcium. A diet full of dark leafy greens, healthy sources of dairy (kefir milk and yogurt are excellent choices), and broccoli will deliver a healthy amount of calcium to the body.

Exercise with Bodyweight

As mentioned previously, exercise is another important factor for osteoporosis prevention. Although exercise might seem daunting for some Lupus Warriors—especially right after a flare—yoga, ballet, barre, pilates, and other calisthenic exercises provide enough body weight movements to strengthen the musculoskeletal system.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends two types of exercise to help prevent osteoporosis:

  1. Weight-bearing exercises
    • High impact (e.g., running/jogging, dancing, hiking)
    • Low impact (e.g., using elliptical machines, stair-stepping machines)
  2. Muscle-strengthening exercises
    • Lifting weights or performing functional exercises like flexing up on to your toes

As with any exercise plan, be sure to speak with your treatment team to ensure exercises are safe and beneficial for you.

Calcium Supplements

Calcium pills are available to ensure there is enough calcium in the body to retain. Nutrition experts believe that calcium supplements with magnesium and vitamin d provide a better chance for optimal absorption. If osteoporosis seems inevitable and severe, Intravenous calcium therapies are available and often prescribed.

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