Osteoporosis is a serious bone disease that affects approximately 8 million women in the United States. It also can occur in men, but it is far more common in women, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health.
Left untreated, osteoporosis can lead to debilitating bone fractures, especially in the hip and spine.
Fortunately, catching and treating osteoporosis early can help slow the disease and protect you from potentially life-changing complications. A test called a DEXA scan can identify bone weakness and osteoporosis.
At Associates in Women’s Health in Cincinnati, our team of care providers would like to share some important information about the DEXA scan, including the information we use to determine who should have it.
Osteoporosis is a condition that causes the bones to become brittle and weak, which means they can break (fracture) more easily than strong bones.
Osteoporosis occurs most frequently in post-menopausal women. Aging and a drop in the hormone estrogen can cause bones to weaken. Lifestyle habits such as smoking, not exercising, and eating a diet low in vitamin D and calcium can also contribute to osteoporosis, as can certain health conditions and medications.
Scanning your bones
The DEXA scan looks for signs of weakening bones. (DEXA stands for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry.) It is a test that measures the bone mineral density (BMD) in your hip, spine, forearm, wrist, or other selected locations.
A DEXA scan uses low-energy X-rays to evaluate your BMD. This is a safe, effective test that takes only about 10-20 minutes to complete.
During the test, you lie on a table while an X-ray scanner passes over you. It is a simple test to receive and is covered by most health insurance.
Who should be tested?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends BMD testing for women who are over age 65. In addition, your provider may suggest a DEXA scan if you meet one or more of the following criteria:
- Body weight under 127 pounds
- Certain health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, diabetes, or lupus
- Family history of osteoporosis
- History of bone fracture because of brittle bones
- History of taking certain drugs, such as some breast cancer medications
- History of disordered eating
- Lifestyle factors such as cigarette smoking
- Low calcium intake
Your DEXA test results
If your DEXA scan finds that your bones are weak, your provider may diagnose osteoporosis or osteopenia (pre-osteoporosis).
Depending on the extent of your condition, your provider may prescribe medications such as bisphosphonates or other drugs that help build bone mass and/or slow the rate of bone loss. Other recommendations may include taking calcium/vitamin D supplements, doing more weight-bearing exercise, reducing your alcohol intake, or quitting smoking.
Have your bone health evaluated
Catching bone weakness early can help protect you and your quality of life. If you're eligible for a DEXA scan or have questions about your bone health, reach out to the friendly care providers in our practice. Schedule a visit or a well-woman exam by calling our office at 513-794-1500 or requesting an appointment today.