People can’t feel their bones getting weaker. They may not know that they have a problem until they break a bone. A person with osteoporosis can fracture a bone from a minor fall, or in serious cases, from a simple action such as a sneeze.
A bone mineral density (BMD) test is the only way to diagnose osteoporosis and determine the risk for future fracture. Since osteoporosis can develop undetected for decades, early diagnosis is important before a fracture occurs.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommends a BMD test of the hip and spine by a central DEXA machine to diagnose osteoporosis. The DEXA scan, or Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry, measures bone mass to determine the presence of osteopenia (reduction in bone volume to below normal levels) or osteoporosis (disease in which the bones become extremely porous, are subject to fracture, and heal slowly) in women and men.
Jordan Young, a registered technologist at St. Francis Imaging Services who screens patients using the DEXA technology explains, "The scan is as simple as lying flat on an exam table. We measure the bone density of your hip and spine using low dose x-rays. The entire test takes only 15 minutes."
The procedure is noninvasive and painless, requires no preparatory drinks, medications or injections.
According to Young, other bone density screenings are available, but the DEXA scan is the most reliable and accurate when screening for bone density. "Not everyone needs testing, but those at risk for osteoporosis should definitely be aware of this test," he advises.
The brittle facts are: Approximately one in two women and one in four men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their remaining lifetime. A woman's risk of hip fracture is equal to her combined risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.
"This is a life-saving scan," Young emphasizes. "About one out of five hip fracture patients dies within a year of their injury."
Many women wait to get screened because they don't think it will happen to them, or because they think they can't do anything about it. What they don't know is that testing, along with diet and lifestyle, can go a long way in minimizing the effects of osteoporosis.
"Osteoporosis is treatable," Young states. "A bone density test gives physicians an idea of how healthy bones are to determine treatment option."
Recommendations to be screened for this bone-thinning disease include women over the age of 50, who have risk factors for osteoporosis (such as, but not limited to, small frame, underweight, or have illnesses or have been on medications that might weaken bones) and all post-menopausal women over the age of 65. Men over age 65 should be screened as well.
For more information on bone mineral density testing or any other imaging services available at St. Francis Hospital & Health Services, call 660/562-7907.