Osteoporosis is a serious health threat for millions of women here in the U.S. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, 55 percent of people over age 50 have low bone mass in the U.S. Women are at especially high risk, with triple the lifetime risk of developing a vertebral fracture as men. It is important to take steps to identify osteoporosis in its earliest stages so that it can be more easily treated before a fracture occurs.
Bone density tests can measure bone mass throughout the body and reveal whether a patient has normal bone density, low bone density (osteopenia) or osteoporosis. Dr. Hammad will interpret the results of a bone density test and use that information to predict the chances of future bone fractures. Bone density tests may also be used to monitor the effectiveness of an osteoporosis medication.
Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry testing, or DXA, is a non-invasive and painless test that measures bone mass inside the body. It emits very little radiation, yet is the most effective means of diagnosing osteoporosis. DXA screenings are typically performed on the hips or spine, since these areas are strong indicators of bone health throughout the body and the likelihood of suffering a future bone fracture.
Central DXA testing is very fast. Patients are given a T score, which compares bone mass with that of a young adult of the same gender. The DXA also provides a Z score, which compares bone mass with that of people the same age and gender. Any T score less than -2.5 indicates the presence of osteoporosis. T scores between -1 and -2.5 are considered low bone mass, a condition known as osteopenia. The presence of osteopenia does not necessarily mean that it will progress to osteoporosis, but it does increase the possibility.
Dr. Hammad may recommend osteoporosis screening if you are a man or a post-menopausal woman over age 50 who has recently broken a bone. Otherwise, all women over age 65 and men ages 70 and older should undergo bone density testing. Other indications for osteoporosis screening might include rapid loss of height or an x-ray that reveals bone loss in the spine. You may need to undergo osteoporosis screening every two years if you are diagnosed with the condition and are taking medication to manage it.