Diagnosing Osteoporosis

As always, the more information you have, the easier it is to make informed choices about what you need to do to keep yourself healthy and well. Checking for the risk of osteoporosis is no different. If your bone density is good, you need only work on prevention; but if you already have a problem with your bone density, you have to look at taking action to strengthen your bones now. Osteoporosis is a silent condition, so you can’t tell you have it by symptoms, unless it has gone so far that you suffer a fracture. However, it is now relatively easy to assess whether or not a woman is at risk of the condition, by using a number of tests. These tests include:

Dural Energy X-Ray, Absorptiometry (DEXA)

This X-ray machine is able to pick up changes in bone density far sooner than ordinary X-ray equipment, and it is the most reliable and widely used machine for diagnosing osteoporosis. It makes an image of your bones using two X-ray beams set at different frequencies. The machine can calculate the bone-mineral density by the rate your bones absorb each beam. The World Health Organization defines osteoporosis by what is called a “T score”, which is a measurement compared to a young adult. So a T score of more than minute 1 (-1) is considered normal; between minus 1 and minus 2.5 is classed as osteopenia (low bone density); and a score lower than minus 3.5 is categorized a osteoporosis.

Ultrasound Bone Scanner

An ultrasound is passed through the bone in the heel of your foot to give a reading of bone density. Research shows that ultrasound is as good as DEXA scans at predicting who will go on to have a fracture. It’s the technique most doctors use in the clinics. You’ll be given a “T score” according to the same system as the DEXA machine.

Bone Turnover Analysis

This test does not measure the density for your bone or its quality, but its turnover – how quickly your bone is breaking down. It’s a useful test for monitoring how well you’re doing with exercise, diet, supplements, or even drug treatment for osteoporosis. You’ll be asked to provide a urine sample, which is sent to a lab. Here, technicians use the sample to assess the speed with which you lose bone. You can usually have the test repeated every three months to make sure your bone turnover is not too rapid.

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