Anecdotal evidence from doctors suggests that osteoporosis is underdiagnosed and undertreated in MS patients. The multiple sclerosis attracts attention of the medical professionals, patients, and caregivers. And the idea that osteoporosis is a disease of older women is a problem. Males and pre-menopausal women with MS can get osteoporosis. Some of the effects of advanced osteoporosis can look like the symptoms of MS. If a joint hurts, it is MS or osteoporosis, or both?
There is no guideline adopted by the medical profession on whether MS patients should undergo bone density tests or at what point in the progression of the MS an osteoporosis screening should happen.
Osteoporosis of this sort is secondary osteoporosis. MS restricts mobility and the skeleton gets less exercise. At advanced stages, MS patients use wheelchairs. The limited movement and lack of exercise raises the risk that bone density will decline. Low body weight common in MS patients is a risk for osteoporosis. There is also some evidence that the MS itself contributes to osteoporosis development because the sclerostin proteins produced in MS augment osteocyte apoptosis.
Some MS patients also take steroid drugs, which can increase the risk of osteoporosis. Most patients do not take steroids for a long time, but one common regimen – called pulse therapy – is short-term high dosage steroid use to reduce inflammation. Methylprednisolone - glucosteroid given orally and intravenously to control the symptoms of MS - and can be detrimental to bone health. Some scientists think the steroids used for treatment have little impact on lower bone density in MS patients and instead blame the disease itself.
Because MS affects balance and coordination, patients are more likely to fall over than healthy people are in the same circumstances. This makes osteoporosis even more risky for MS patients.
Multiple sclerosis patients are treated the same way as other osteoporosis patients. Exercise may be difficult for MS patients with thinning bones. But bisphosohnates and other medicines are employed. Vitamin D is of special interest because it has been shown MS patients have lower than normal levels in their bodies, perhaps due to staying out of the sun.
The Journal of Osteoporosis has a good description of the diagnosis and treatment of the condition in MS patients: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/josteo/2011/596294/