What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a significant loss of bone density and strength that affects millions of women and men in the United States. The only way to tell if you have osteoporosis is by measuring the bone mass through a specialized bone density test. The interior of normal bone has a spongy, honeycomb-like structure. In people with osteoporosis, the holes of the honeycomb are greatly enlarged, making the bone less dense. Not only does osteoporosis gradually weaken bones, making them more prone to fractures, but the associated bone loss can be irreversible.

Who is at risk?

Certain people are more likely to develop osteoporosis than others. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, factors that increase the risk of developing osteoporosis include:

Risk Factors

  • Personal history of fracture as an adult
  • History of fragility fracture in a first-degree relative
  • Low body weight (< about 127 pounds)
  • Current smoking
  • Use of oral corticosteroid therapy for more than three months

Bone Density Testing (DXA)

A specialized test measures the bone density in various sites of the body. Bone density testing is a simple, painless, non-invasive procedure. The test uses a very small amount of radiation (less than one-tenth of a chest x-ray) to scan the spine, hip and sometimes the forearm. The test will measure the bone mass and compare that number with a reference population whose age, sex and racial background are similar to yours.

A bone density test can help

  • Detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs
  • Predict your future chance of fracture
  • Determine your rate of bone loss and/or monitor the effects of treatment, if the test is conducted at intervals of a year or more St.Vincent Bone Density Testing Recommendations

The decision to test for BMD should be based on one's risk profile. Testing may not be indicated unless the results could influence a treatment decision.

BMD testing should be performed on:

  1. All women aged 65 and older regardless of risk factors. *
  2. Younger postmenopausal women with one or more risk factors (other than being white, post-menopausal and female).
  3. Postmenopausal women with fractures (to confirm diagnosis and determine disease severity).

Treatment and guidelines for treatment

The best treatment for osteoporosis is prevention. Adequate calcium consumption and weight-bearing exercise by adolescent and young adults women can increase bone mass which can reduce bone loss and lower risk of fractures in later years.