There is no specific age at which all people should stop treating osteoporosis. Continuing treatment is important because the risk of bone loss increases as individuals get older.

The risk of developing osteoporosis increases with age, as does the risk of serious complications. This means that for most people, it may be even more important to treat the condition as they get older.

Until recently, most research on osteoporosis treatment focused on people under the age of 80 years. However, newer research points to the benefits of osteoporosis treatment in older individuals. No research suggests there is any age at which it is beneficial to discontinue treatment.

If someone experiences side effects with treatment, a doctor may change their medication.

Read on to learn more about treating osteoporosis as a person ages.

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Osteoporosis typically does not improve with time or with age. Instead, bone mineral density decreases with age, as does the likelihood of osteoporosis and bone fractures.

There is no official recommendation to stop treatment at a specific age. Additionally, there is no established research suggesting there is any specific benefit to doing so.

A 2017 paper recommends re-evaluating osteoporosis treatment every 5 years for most treatment protocols. This reduces to 3 years for zoledronic acid.

If a person has severe side effects, such as serious skin infections, the risks of treatment may outweigh the benefits. Their doctor may recommend switching medication to reduce side effects. It is very rare that they would suggest stopping treatment entirely.

Unless a person has a known allergy to treatment or experiences severe side effects, there is no reason to decline treatment at an older age. However, according to a 2019 study, older people with osteoporosis may not get the treatment they need.

The study found that women over 80 years with osteoporosis were less likely to receive treatment despite having a greater risk of complications. Treatment in this age group is particularly important in maintaining quality of life and reducing the risk of fractures.

A person can discuss the risks and benefits of treatment with a doctor. However, the evidence generally suggests there is no age at which osteoporosis treatment does not offer some benefits.

There are many factors to consider in a risk-benefit analysis of osteoporosis treatment. For example, some medications a person is taking may negatively interact with osteoporosis drugs. The individual will also need to consider the cost and time necessary to undergo treatments.

Early treatment for osteoporosis is incredibly important because it can slow or prevent bone loss. This can prevent fractures, pain, and possible disability.

Certain fractures, such as vertebral fractures, are especially dangerous. They may even affect breathing and lead to infections such as pneumonia.

According to a 2017 narrative review, the risk of fractures increases as a person ages. Therefore, the benefits of treatment actually increase as a person ages since treatment can reduce the risk of a bone fracture.

The review emphasized that adding calcium and vitamin D to a person’s diet may further reduce the risk of a fracture.

As someone ages, fractures become more serious and recovery becomes more challenging. For example, a 2019 study found that older adults with hip fractures were three to four times more likely to die within a year.

Many factors contribute to this phenomenon, but fracture complications, such as infections, can increase mortality.

A fracture also makes it more difficult to exercise and maintain healthy lifestyle habits such as eating well and exercising. This has the potential to worsen other chronic illnesses, such as heart disease.

Osteoporosis is not a terminal illness, and treatment for the condition can be effective. However, in people with serious fractures or for whom treatment is ineffective, a palliative care consultation can help guide treatment decisions and lifestyle changes.

People in palliative care or hospice may no longer need osteoporosis treatment if the treatment side effects are unpleasant or if they have a low risk of a fracture.

Some questions to consider asking a doctor include:

  • Will treatment interact negatively with any other medications I am taking?
  • What should I do if I experience side effects?
  • What is my risk of a bone fracture?
  • Is there anything I can do to reduce my fracture risk?
  • How often should we re-evaluate treatment?
  • What should I do if I experience side effects?

A person may also want to speak with a pharmacist when picking up their medication. They can ask:

  • What should I do if I miss a dose?
  • What will my out-of-pocket cost be?
  • Are there co-pay assistance options I may qualify for?

While some people may stop taking osteoporosis medication after a long period of treatment, when they experience side effects or seek end-of-life care, there is no age at which they need to stop treatment.

The risk of osteoporosis increases with age, so treatment can become even more important as a person ages. Bone fracture risk increase with age, so continuing treatment is essential.

People with concerns about the risks of treatment can discuss them with a healthcare professional.