How do I know if I have osteoporosis?

In this article, Naomi Albertson, M.D., investigates how the diagnosis of osteoporosis is made.

How do I know if I have Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis may be diagnosed through routine screening with a DeXA test (DXA or Dual-energy Xray Absorptiometry study) or in less fortunate individuals by a fracture (broken bone). Most doctors agree that women aged 65 and older and men aged 70 and older should have a screening DXA scan regardless of risk. Additionally, individualized assessment should be completed for younger men and women who have increased risk due to other diseases, conditions, medications, family history, etc.

Osteoporosis Testing and Diagnosis

A DEXA (DXA) scan is a quick and painless procedure used to assess the density of your bones. The test itself takes approximately 30 minutes to complete while you lay on a padded examination table. Based on the information received about the density of your bones (grams/cm2), together with the criteria set forth by the World Health Organization (WHO) osteopenia and osteoporosis are defined. Many individuals who do not reach WHO criteria for a diagnosis of osteoporosis may have osteopenia and may still require treatment due to their heightened risk of fractures. FRAX is a mathematical calculation based on country-specific hip fracture rates and incorporates select risks associated with fractures to identify individuals who require medication treatment to strengthen their bones.

Other tests such as CT-based absorptiometry (QCT), peripheral dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, quantitative ultrasound densitometry (QUS) exist but are less reliable and less available to patients.

Look for my article next month and read about how you can prevent osteoporosis and increase your bone density by ensuring you are getting the vitamins and minerals necessary to build bone and the type of exercises that will help to improve your bone mass.