INDIANAPOLIS — Karen Tieman has broken so many bones that she's lost count.
"Probably more than 15. Not all major bones, but still enough. We're talking toes, fingers, a little knuckle and pelvis twice, a knee, twice hip," Tieman said.
Multiple broken bones are a huge red flag and why her doctor encouraged her to get a DEXA scan to measure her bone density, which assigned her a T score. The score corresponds to your bone mass, with the higher the number the better. A T score of -1 or greater is considered in the normal range.
In 2018, Tieman's score led to a diagnosis of osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to be weak and brittle. Tieman's doctor encouraged her to take calcium and vitamin D supplements and weekly prescription medication by injection. Ever since, Tieman's T score is steadily improving.
Ascension St. Vincent orthopedic surgeon Dr. Renn Crichlow said patients are often unaware of their deteriorating bone health and what puts them at risk.
"If you are somebody that has had cancer or dealt with cancer in their past, a lot of the drugs to treat cancer, chemotherapy, therapy drugs can really make a difference," Crichlow said. "Also, other medications like prednisone is a common one or corticosteroids that you take for lung conditions or skin conditions can also cause a lot of deterioration of your bones over time."
Too often, Crichlow said, a broken bone is the first sign of a problem. He sees it in his practice every day.
"The big four really would be a hip fracture, a pelvic fracture, a wrist fracture or a spine fracture. Those are the four most common things that we see," Crichlow said. "One in eight women will have a hip fracture or an osteoporotic-related fracture. That's what we really get into trouble with because we have to have an operation to correct that. It really affects your quality of life."
But, Crichlow said getting a baseline DEXA bone density scan is a start.
"It made me happy because I knew there was a reason I was breaking my bones. And if I could do something about it, you better believe I was going to do it — and I do it every day," Tieman said.
For Check Up 13 today, you can register for a $99 DEXA bone density scan at these Ascension St. Vincent locations:
Click here to see if you qualify.