How Long Do You Have to Take Zometa?

logo of zometa zoledronic acid

Osteoporosis, a bone disease, occurs when your body loses too much bone. It is considered to be a silent disease because you can’t feel your bones weakening. The term osteoporosis means porous bone and healthy bones, when viewed microscopically, look like honeycombs. With osteoporosis, the spaces and holes in the honeycombs are a lot larger. Zometa is a type of bisphosphonate that can help with the prevention of calcium loss in the bones and might keep them from breaking.

Taking a Closer Look

Bone cells are always being removed and replaced with new cells. Osteoclasts are the cells removing the older bone, and osteoblasts are the cells replacing it with the new bone. Bisphosphonates hinder the digestion of bone by helping the osteoclasts to die, therefore slowing down bone loss. The uses of these medications help to prevent and treat osteoporosis, Paget’s disease of bone, primary hyperparathyroidism, multiple myeloma, bone metastasis, fibrous dysplasia, and others exhibiting fragility in the bones.

For those with osteoporosis, bones lose density/mass and contain abnormal structures of tissue. This weakening of bone density means bones are more likely to break. The more common areas for such include the wrists, hips, and spine. Often, the breaking of bone is the first sign of this disease and it is more common in older patients. If you are aged 50+ and have broken a bone, a bone density test is highly recommended. Osteoporosis could also cause a loss in height when it affects the vertebrae or spine.

Higher Risk Factors

There are instances that can increase your risk of Osteoporosis. These include:

  • Age 35+
  • Low levels of estrogen
  • Gender (female)
  • Caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco
  • Lack of Vitamin D and calcium
  • Lack of exercise
  • Long-term lung diseases, thyroid diseases, and bone cancer
  • Certain medications (blood-thinners, steroids, and anticonvulsants)

What Is Zometa and Its Uses?

Zometa is the brand name for zoledronic acid and is a bisphosphonate that prevents and treats bone loss. It works by interfering with the body’s process of breaking down bone tissue and alters the formation of bones. Sometimes, bisphosphonates stop this altogether. These drugs are given to people with osteoporosis, osteopenia, Paget’s disease of bone, and some bone cancers.

Zometa treats high levels of calcium in the blood caused by cancer and multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer. It can also treat bone cancer that has spread elsewhere in the body. Zometa also treats or helps prevent osteoporosis in postmenopausal women and increases bone mass in men who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. It is administered by a physician via injection and the duration of treatment varies, which we will look into further.

You should not be given Zometa if are using any other bisphosphonate. To know if Zometa is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • Kidney disease
  • Hypocalcemia
  • Thyroid/parathyroid surgery
  • Bowel resection
  • Aspirin-induced asthma
  • Malabsorption syndrome
  • Dental problems 

How Is Zometa Administered?

an infusion drip through which the zometa are administered

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Zometa is given through an IV under doctor supervision in a hospital or clinic setting. It must be given slowly and the intravenous infusion can take at least 15 minutes. It is suggested that you drink a minimum of two glasses of water a few hours prior to your treatment in order to prevent dehydration.

Zometa can interact with other medications including diuretics, lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid), and methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall). Other medicines that can interact with Zometa are those for pain or arthritis, ulcerative colitis, organ transplant rejection, intravenous antibiotics, and cancer. To make sure this medication is aiding in your condition and not causing a harmful effect, a blood test should be administered frequently, as well as checking your kidney function.

How Long Do You Have to Take Zometa?

The long-term use of Zometa has an increased risk with the death of bone in the jaw area and with uncommon fractures in the thigh bone. The length of time women should stay on these drugs minimizing vertebral and hip fractures without increasing the risks of these serious and rare complications has been debated by experts. Guidelines published in the 2016 issue of Journal of Bone and Mineral Research recommended a reassessment after five years of oral use with bisphosphonates and after three years of intravenous use.

Women with a higher risk are suggested to continue oral treatment for up to 10 years and 6 years for intravenous use, but their risk of fractures should be reassessed every 2 to 3 years during the therapy. For women with lower risks after five years of oral treatment and three years of intravenous treatment, the treatment can be stopped, but the risk of fractures should still be reassessed regularly.

It is important to tell your doctor about all the medications and supplements you take. Frequent medical tests will help your doctor figure out how long your treatment with Zometa should last. Sometimes, this medicine is given only once a year since the duration of the treatment depends on what condition is being treated.

Zometa Side Effects

a man experiencing joint pain, one of the possible side effects of zoledronic acid

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The most common side effects of Zometa use include muscle/joint aches, upset stomach, and heartburn. There are some rare side effects with long-term use including osteonecrosis of the jaw and atypical fractures of the femur. Symptoms of osteonecrosis include jaw pain, swelling, loose teeth, or gum infections. You are more likely to develop this if you’ve been treated with chemotherapy, radiation, or steroids.

Doctors will recommend a dental exam prior to Zometa treatments for preventative reasons and other conditions associated with osteonecrosis of the jaw will be blood clotting disorders, anemia, and pre-existing dental problems. Paying special attention to dental hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly is a good idea and if you need some dental work, make sure to tell the dentist that you are taking Zometa. Avoidance of dental surgery is highly recommended while using this medicine since recovery time will take longer than usual.

Zometa can also cause problems with your kidneys, some could be serious if you’re dehydrated or taking diuretic medications. A call to your doctor for irregular urination, feet/ankle swelling, and shortness of breath is important. Other reasons you should contact your doctor would be if you experience muscle spasms, numbness/tingling in the hands/feet and mouth area, unusual hip pain, and acute pain in the joints, bones, or muscles. The more serious side effects in regards to the kidneys are more likely to occur in older adults.

An acute phase reaction was reported by patients within three days of administering Zometa with symptoms including fatigue, chills, bone pain, pyrexia (fever), and myalgias (muscle pains). These symptoms were usually resolved within a few days.

Reactions and Signs to Look For

chest pain

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If you show signs of an allergic reaction including wheezing, hives, tightness in your chest, difficulty breathing, or swelling in the face, lips, tongue, or throat area get emergency medical help quickly. Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • New or unusual pain in your thigh or hip
  • Jaw pain, numbness, or swelling
  • Kidney problems
  • Severe joint, bone, or muscle pain
  • Muscle spasms or contractions, numbness or tingly feeling

The most common side effects of bisphosphonates can be avoided by taking this medication correctly. Common side effects include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation
  • Bone pain and muscle/joint pain
  • Fever
  • Arm/leg pain
  • Red/puffy eyes
  • Headache
  • Trouble breathing
  • Muscle cramps/aches
  • Sinus/throat infections
  • Bladder infections 

Zometa should not be used if you are pregnant as the use of this medication can cause harm to your unborn child. Use of birth control is recommended. Zometa can also pass into breast milk, therefore you should not use this medicine while breastfeeding.


In conclusion, the use of Zometa can aid in osteoporosis and help to prevent bone breakage. Osteoporosis is a long-term condition that causes your bones to become weak, brittle, and more likely to fracture or break. It happens because the body absorbs more bone than it produces. It is caused by a lack of calcium and the female hormone, estrogen.

Those who suffer from Osteoporosis find they have feelings of depression and isolation since it causes limited mobility. Twenty percent of seniors with breaks to their hip die within a year from the surgery or from the complication related to the break itself. Most patients will require long-term care either in the home or in a nursing home. If you experience height loss or a curvature of the spine, make sure to consult your doctor immediately.

The doctor will make sure to monitor your side effects (if any) and check your response to the therapy. Regular blood work will monitor your CBC (complete blood count), kidney function (especially creatinine), and the levels of calcium in your blood. This medication is only one part of a complete program of treatments which can also include dietary changes and taking supplements.

Your doctor might prescribe a vitamin D and/or a calcium supplement while you undergo this treatment and you should carefully follow the instructions as to the type and strength of the supplements you have been prescribed. As stated earlier, the length of time for this type of treatment will depend greatly upon the condition with which you are being treated. Your doctor will determine the time-frame taking into account various tests and other factors.

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