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Question

Osteoporosis and long-term prednisone: What is the risk?

I've been taking prednisone for my rheumatoid arthritis, but I've heard that it can increase my chances of developing osteoporosis. How big is the risk?

Updated: 01-24-2020

Answer

Answer Section

Generally, the higher the dose of prednisone you take and the longer you take it, the greater the risk of osteoporosis. However, even low doses interfere with healthy bone growth.

Prednisone is a corticosteroid, a type of medication that's very effective in managing inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis and many other conditions. Unfortunately, corticosteroids also can dramatically weaken bones and lead to osteoporosis.

To protect your bones, do weight-bearing exercise, avoid alcohol and don't smoke. Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements is another step you can take to help reduce the amount of bone loss caused by corticosteroids such as prednisone.

If you'll be taking prednisone for more than a few months and you have other risk factors for bone loss, your doctor may prescribe medications specifically designed to treat and prevent osteoporosis.