To check for osteoporosis, we use a special X-ray method called bone densitometry testing, also known as DXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry). DXA is used to evaluate bone loss and to diagnose and monitor osteoporosis.
What to Expect
During a comprehensive bone densitometry, you remain still on a padded table while the DXA equipment scans one or two areas of your body. The hip and lower spine are the typical areas of bone evaluated; together, they take about 10 minutes to scan. For your comfort, you should avoid wearing clothing with zippers, rivets, or other metal around the spine or hip areas.
Bones naturally lose their density and strength gradually over time. In people with osteoporosis, this process happens faster. The result is an increasing risk of fracture, particularly in the spine, ribs, hips, and wrists.
Women and men can develop osteoporosis at any age, but it is most common in post-menopausal women. Osteoporosis poses a serious health threat to 43 million Americans, 80 percent of whom are women. Half of all women after menopause are at risk of developing osteoporosis. Most bone loss occurs during the first ten years after the onset of menopause. That’s why it’s critical to detect and treat bone loss during these years.
In addition to age, several factors can increase your osteoporosis risk. They include:
- Advanced age
- Low peak bone mass at maturity
- Personal history of fractures after age 50
- Family history of fractures or osteoporosis
- Low body weight
- Low calcium intake or vitamin D deficiency
- Smoking or high alcohol consumption
- Use of corticosteroids or other high-risk medications
- Medical conditions such as ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, kidney failure
The best way to detect bone loss is a quick and painless process called bone densitometry testing. Unlike a standard X-ray, densitometry can measure even very small amounts of bone loss.
We recommend a test for the following individuals:
- Women 65 and older
- Men 70 and older
- Postmenopausal women who have risk factors
- Adults who have had a fragility fracture (an incident in which healthy bones would not be expected to break), any condition associated with low bone mass, or other risk factors
Treatment may include changes to your diet, calcium and vitamin D supplements, exercise, and/or prescribed medications. All of these methods can lessen your risk of fracture and the resulting pain, expense, and danger.