Osteoporosis Won’t Wait For COVID-19
Are you one of the many women across the country who is delaying health screenings due to the threat of COVID-19? Bone density screening may be one of those tests that seems insignificant during this challenging time. Osteoporosis is a condition that does not manifest symptoms until a fracture occurs. The testing to diagnose this disease is often postponed even in non-pandemic times with sizable under diagnoses in post-menopausal women. Delay in bone density testing can lead to late or missed detection of osteoporosis that could have major negative consequences. Early detection can give women the best chance for fracture prevention and positive health outcomes.
A recent global study has shown that the use of the widely adopted FRAX website for calculating the 10-year probability of fracture has been down 58%. This metric leads us to believe there may be over an estimated million osteoporosis screenings that have been missed or delayed worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic thus far. Untreated osteoporosis can have devastating results that may otherwise have been managed more proactively in an ordinarily routine manner. Priorities for many have been shifted from preventive healthcare to reactionary or simply putting important diagnostic screening tests on hold. Waiting until adverse outcomes occur such as a fragility fracture may very well result in considerable morbidity that contribute to major declines in quality of life.
Even in the best of times osteoporosis is a much under diagnosed condition that with proper diagnosis and early treatment can be easily well managed. When treatment is delayed or interrupted for any reason, unnecessary risks can occur. An alternative treatment plan may need to be developed during the pandemic to be sure uninterrupted compliance with the medications. If you are not comfortable going into an acute care setting for a medication given by injection or intravenous route this could potentially be switched temporarily to an oral therapy that could be given safely at home. Be sure and discuss this silent but very important condition with your healthcare provider so you can come up with a plan to monitor and manage osteoporosis as a partnership.
There are many ways to improve bone health and finding an acceptable individualized therapy is vital during this difficult time.
Jill Nielsen is a commissioner on the Georgia Commission on Women.