Calcitonin is a medication that doctors may prescribe to treat postmenopausal osteoporosis. It helps slow the loss of bone density and increase bone mass. However, it can also cause side effects.

Osteoporosis is a disease that can cause a person’s bones to weaken, making them easier to break and more fragile. The condition is degenerative and develops slowly over time. Osteoporosis does not typically present any symptoms, meaning someone may not realize they have the condition until they break a bone.

There are several ways someone can help manage their osteoporosis, including eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol, and taking medications, such as calcitonin.

Doctors may prescribe calcitonin as an injection or a nasal spray.

This article discusses how calcitonin treats osteoporosis, its possible side effects, and its efficacy. The article also explores other treatments for osteoporosis.

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Calcitonin is a hormone that a person’s thyroid gland produces. It helps regulate the amount of calcium in the body.

For the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis, scientists typically extract calcitonin from salmon. This is because salmon calcitonin has a much higher potency than human calcitonin.

Osteoclasts are cells in the body that degrade bone. Calcitonin can inhibit osteoclasts. This helps slow the loss of bone density and increases bone mass, hindering the progression of osteoporosis.

Some people may experience side effects from taking calcitonin, such as:

If a person uses calcitonin in a nasal spray formulation, they may experience nosebleeds, a stuffy and runny nose, and nasal ulcers.

Other health considerations

Individuals should consult a doctor before taking calcitonin to ensure that it does not interact with any other medications they are taking or affect any other health conditions they have.

Calcitonin can cause a reduction of lithium in the blood, so people taking this medication, which may include those with bipolar disorder, may wish to discuss this further with a doctor.

People should also inform their doctor if they are pregnant. A healthcare professional may want to monitor someone if they decide to prescribe calcitonin during pregnancy. Alternatively, they may suggest managing osteoporosis with alternative treatments.

If a person has low levels of calcium in their blood, taking calcitonin may lead to muscle spasms, muscle cramps, and irregular heartbeats. A person should address their calcium levels before taking calcitonin.

Additionally, there may be a small link between taking calcitonin as a nasal spray for long periods and developing certain types of cancer.

Anyone with a fish allergy may not be able to take salmon calcitonin, as they have a higher risk of developing a severe allergic reaction. A person should call 911 immediately if they think someone is experiencing a severe allergic reaction.

Anaphylaxis: Symptoms and what to do

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life threatening. The symptoms develop suddenly and include:

  • hives
  • swelling of the face or mouth
  • wheezing
  • fast, shallow breathing
  • a fast heart rate
  • clammy skin
  • anxiety or confusion
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • blue or white lips
  • fainting or loss of consciousness

If someone has these symptoms:

  1. Check whether they are carrying an epinephrine pen. If they are, follow the instructions on the side of the pen to use it.
  2. Dial 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department.
  3. Lay the person down from a standing position. If they have vomited, turn them onto their side.
  4. Stay with them until the emergency services arrive.

Some people may need more than one epinephrine injection. If the symptoms do not improve in 5–15 minutes, or they come back, use a second pen if the person has one.

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Calcitonin currently has Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for treating postmenopausal osteoporosis, provided a person is at least 5 years into the postmenopausal phase.

Some research suggests that calcitonin may also be effective for treating other types of osteoporosis. However, studies are still ongoing.

A doctor may recommend making lifestyle changes to help treat and manage osteoporosis. These may include:

A healthcare professional may also recommend other medications that can treat osteoporosis, including:

  • Estrogen agonists or antagonists: These affect some tissues in a similar way to estrogen and have estrogen-inhibiting effects on others. They may help with postmenopausal osteoporosis.
  • Bisphosphonates: These slow bone loss to help preserve bone density and strength.
  • Parathyroid hormone analog and parathyroid hormone related-protein analog: These can increase bone mass in people with osteoporosis who have a high risk of fractures.
  • Estrogen and hormone therapy: These involve estrogen, or a combination of progestin and estrogen, to help treat postmenopausal osteoporosis.
  • Sclerostin inhibitors: These block the effect of a certain protein to help someone’s body increase new bone formation and slow the rate of bone loss.
  • RANK ligand inhibitors: These can slow bone loss in people with osteoporosis who have a high risk of fractures or do not respond to other osteoporosis treatments.

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that typically worsens over time. It can cause bones to weaken, therefore becoming fragile and breaking more easily.

Calcitonin is a hormone the thyroid produces to help regulate calcium levels in the body. It can slow the loss of bone density and increase bone mass in people with conditions such as osteoporosis.

Some people who take calcitonin to treat osteoporosis may experience side effects, such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite.

Individuals should speak with a doctor before taking calcitonin, particularly if they have any other health conditions, are pregnant, or are taking other medications.

However, there are various a person may be able to manage osteoporosis, including making lifestyle changes and taking other medications.