talk to your doctor about osteoporosis

Some doctors specialize in treating specific conditions like arthritis or diabetes. For osteoporosis, however, there’s no particular specialist. Instead, it often falls to the doctor you see and trust the most. This may be an internal medicine physician, gynecologist, family doctor, orthopedist, rheumatologist, or geriatrician.

Regardless of the type of specialist who’s treating you, it’s important you feel comfortable asking your doctor questions about your bone health, medications taken, outlook with treatment, and other questions you may have related to your unique health. When you have an appointment coming up, here are some ways to prepare so you can make the most out of your visit.

Preparing for your appointment

Before going to your appointment, take a personal health inventory of how you’re managing osteoporosis and your condition in relation to your overall health. Some steps to do this include:

Creating a current medication list: Make a list of all the medications, supplements, and vitamins you currently take. Include the medication name, dose, and how frequently you take it. Take this list to your appointment.

Reflecting on your health since the last time you went to the doctor: Include the following information on another piece of paper so you can have a clear, concise update when your doctor asks you how you’re doing.

  • You’ve started a new medication.
  • You had a bone fracture or recovered from a fracture.
  • You had imaging scans done since that fracture.
  • You’ve experienced any other changes to your health, such as weight loss, a new diagnosis, or other relevant information your doctor may need to know.

Creating a list of questions you want to ask your doctor: The following sections can help you prepare the questions you may like to ask.

Questions about your bone health

These questions can include information on your previous bone health and disease progress. Examples of questions to ask include:

  • Did you measure any changes in my height since my last visit?
  • Do I need to repeat any bone density scans or other imaging tests?
  • Should I follow any activity restrictions given my current state of bone health?
  • Do you have recommendations for changes in my diet?
  • Can you recommend any physical therapy programs or exercise programs that could strengthen my bone health?
  • What other steps could I take to reduce my chances of breaking a bone?
  • How often should I be tested regarding my bone health?
  • Do you recommend other members of my family be tested too?

You may also wish to be reminded of previous testing results, such as bone density T-scores or Z-scores. Writing these down can help you review the information after your appointment as well.

Questions about medications

If your doctor placed you on new medications or dosages since your last visit, you’ll likely have questions about how effective this medication may be.

Other examples of medication-related questions you may wish to ask during your visit include:

  • I have the following symptoms (include your symptoms here). Are these potentially a side effect of my osteoporosis medications?
  • Do any medications on my list interact with my osteoporosis medications, or are they potentially harmful for my bones?
  • Is there a generic medication available for the medication I’m currently taking?
  • How exactly does the medication work to help my bone health?
  • Are there any alternatives to the medications I currently take or changes you would recommend I make to my medications list?
  • How do I know these medications are working well for me?
  • How will I know if these medications aren’t working well for me?

Sometimes these questions will give rise to other questions to ask your doctor. The most important thing is to ensure you fully understand each response. If you don’t, it’s OK to ask follow-up questions until you do.

Questions your doctor may ask you

Just as you have questions for your doctor, your doctor will likely ask you some as well to get pertinent information. Examples of these questions may include:

  • Do you have back pain? How often, and how would you describe the pain?
  • Have you had any recent falls?
  • When is the last time you had your eyesight checked?
  • (If you’re a female) When did you go through menopause?
  • Do you ever feel dizzy or faint when you stand?
  • Do you smoke?
  • Do you drink alcohol? If yes, how often do you drink and how much?
  • What is your diet like?
  • What type of exercise do you do? How often do you exercise?

These questions can help your doctor better understand your lifestyle and factors that may be contributing to or reducing your risks for an osteoporosis fracture.

Don’t forget these key questions

Here are a few more questions you may wish to ask before you conclude the appointment:

  • When would you like me to make an appointment to return?
  • What is the best way to reach you or a member of your staff if I have further questions?
  • Are there any updates in osteoporosis research or clinical studies that may impact me in the future?

Keeping track of what you discussed

You’ll likely be given a lot of information at your doctor’s visit. To help you remember it, you may wish to bring another person with you. Afterward, discuss with them what your doctor shared with you to reinforce what you heard.

Writing down key points or asking your doctor for handouts or websites to check out can also help.

By preparing for your appointment in advance and taking steps to remember what you learned, you can have a successful appointment with your physician.