Osteoporosis and Bone Density Testing

Learn whether you would benefit from bone density testing.

Osteoporosis strikes men and women. But hormonal changes during menopause can disrupt the body’s bone-building process, making women more susceptible to this bone-weakening disease.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that half of all women and one in eight men in the U.S. will have an osteoporosis-related fracture at some point in their lives.

We measure bone mineral density to confirm an osteoporosis diagnosis and determine the extent of changes to the bone. Determining bone mass also can help us predict the risk of future fractures.

What is osteoporosis?

“Osteoporosis” is Latin for “porous bones.” Loss of minerals, especially calcium, from the bone structure causes the bones to weaken. The bones generally stay the same size, but the inside of some of them become full of holes. A bone affected by osteoporosis resembles brittle coral, or a hard, dry sponge. This process happens slowly over many years and can result in sudden, unexpected fractures.

Who should receive bone density testing?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may benefit from a bone density test:

  • Are you female and 50 or older?
  • Are you male and 65 or older?
    • If you answered yes to either of the above questions and are not being treated for osteoporosis, has it been more than two years since your last bone density test?
  • If you are a post-menopausal female, have you had a recent bone fracture?
  • Have you been taking steroid medication for more than six months?
  • Do you take thyroid hormone replacement therapy, and has your physician indicated that you’ve been taking too much?
  • Have you lost more than 2 inches of height since high school?
  • If you’re male, do you have hypogonadism?
  • Do you have hyperthyroidism?
  • Do you have primary hyperparathyroidism?
  • Have you had GI bypass surgery, stapling, or partial gastrectomy?
  • Do you suffer from celiac disease (celiac sprue) or Crohn’s disease?

The factors above increase your risk for osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about ways to decrease your risk.

How does a bone density test work?

There are many ways to test bone density. The most common method is through dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). During a DEXA exam, you will lie fully clothed on a padded table while our system scans one or more areas of bone. The exam is painless and usually takes only a few minutes to complete.

Bone scanners use low-dose radiation, lower than that used for a chest X-ray, to examine areas such as the spine, hips, wrists, and forearms to get accurate density readings. The low levels of radiation pose no danger.

The device compares your bone quality to that of a young adult at peak bone strength and to people of the same age. Once bone density is determined, a treatment course can be determined.

Treatment options include changes in diet, exercise, hormone replacements, calcium supplements, or medication.

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