Osteoporosis Care

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Osteoporosis occurs when bones become weak and brittle. This increases your risk of a bone fracture, especially of the hip, spine or wrist. 

Osteoporosis Treatment at UVA Health

We can't cure osteoporosis. But we can help you avoid a bone break. At UVA Health, you'll find experts to guide you on lifestyle changes and medications right for you.

Medication can help prevent bone loss and bone fractures, while increasing bone density. These include:

Oral Bisphosphonates Alternatives

Some patients can't tolerate oral bisphosphonates or find them ineffective. At UVA Health, we offer alternatives for patients:

  • With esophageal irritation, we can consider a yearly intravenous bisphosphonate
  • Who have bone pain or dental issues, we offer the option of a twice-yearly medicine by injection 

Both of these medications lead to greater bone density gains and reduced fractures compared to oral bisphosphonates. 

For patients with severely low bone density and active vertebral fractures, we can offer the option of a daily injectable medication. This reduces vertebral fractures by 80%.

Osteoporosis Research at UVA Health

Our endocrinologists continue to actively research novel medicines and therapies, including the use of stem cell therapies, new hormone proteins, and other innovative drug variations.

How Osteoporosis Happens

Throughout your life, your body removes old bone and adds new bone to your skeleton. After age 30, more bone is lost than replaced. If too much bone loss occurs, this may lead to osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is more likely to occur if full bone mass was not achieved during your bone-building years.

Who's at Risk for Osteoporosis?

Your chance of developing osteoporosis is higher if you have any of these risk factors:

  • Aging
  • Low weight
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • History of falls
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Postmenopausal status
  • Certain conditions, such as:
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Amenorrhea (no menstrual periods)
    • Hyperthyroidism
    • Type 2 diabetes
    • Asthma
    • Liver disease
    • Eating disorder
    • Depression
    • Crohn's disease
  • Taking certain medications, such as antidepressants, long-term heparin, corticosteroids, anticonvulsants or antacids
  • Low hormone levels (low estrogen levels in women, low testosterone levels in men)
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Certain restrictive diets that may result in a deficit of calcium or vitamin D
  • Too little sunlight (the effect of sun on the skin is a primary source of vitamin D)
  • Certain cancers, including lymphoma and multiple myeloma

Diagnosing Osteoporosis

You'll need a bone mineral density (BMD) scan. This tests your hip, spine, or wrist bones. Your doctor will recommend the bone density test right for you:

  • Central or peripheral dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA)
  • Quantitative ultrasound (QUS)
  • Central or peripheral quantitative CT scan (QCT)

Make Healthy Choices

To avoid bone loss, there are things you can do. You'll want to quit smoking and eat a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Also talk to your doctor about: 

  • Doing weight-bearing, strength-training and balance-building exercises
  • Taking calcium or vitamin D supplements
  • Avoiding falls