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Osteoporosis

Developing osteoporosis can reduce your quality of life and put you at risk for injury. Fortunately, there are treatment options available, and your care team at Tri-County Health Care can help you take steps to prevent and diagnose osteoporosis.

Understanding osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a silent disease in which bones become weak and are more likely to break. Any bone can be affected, but fractures of the hip and spine are of special concern. These can cause difficulty moving around, loss of height and a deformed back that curves forward. However, it can be prevented and treated.

What causes osteoporosis?

Menopause is the most common trigger for osteoporosis. This includes menopause due to surgery that removes the ovaries.

Menopause usually occurs around the age of 50. The major change is caused when a women’s body begins to produce a much smaller amount of estrogen, which is a hormone the body uses to build bone density. When estrogen levels drop, bone is lost faster. During the first five years after menopause, women may lose as much as 25 percent of their bone density.

Bone loss can also be caused by other factors including certain medications such as thyroid hormones and certain steroids.

Who is at risk?

Certain people are more likely to develop osteoporosis than others. Factors that increase likelihood include:

  • Being female
  • Older age
  • Family history
  • Being small and thin
  • Race/ethnicity (Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic/Latino)
  • History of broken bones
  • Low sex hormones
  • Diet (lack of calcium and vitamin D)
  • Inactive lifestyle (lack of exercise)
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse

How can you find out if you have osteoporosis?

The best way to find out is to consult with your primary care provider. Your provider may be able to tell from certain signs and symptoms if you have osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis may be detected from an X-ray, however, it usually only shows up in advanced stages on regular X-rays.

Osteoporosis can be difficult to detect, especially since people in the early stages often have no symptoms. This is why your provider may recommend that you have a bone densitometry test.

Bone Densitometry Test

A bone densitometry test is an exam your provider uses to assess bone density (the mineral content of your bones) to help diagnose bone loss.

A bone mineral density (BMD) test is the only way to detect low bone density and diagnose osteoporosis. The lower your BMD, the greater the risk of having a fracture. BMD tests are used to detect low bone density before a break occurs; predict chances of breaking a bone; confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis when a bone is already broken; determine if bone density is increasing, decreasing or remaining stable; and monitor your response to treatment.

Tri-County Health Care’s radiology department uses a DEXA machine to perform common scans for diagnosis that measure the quality of your bones. The DEXA scanner passes over your body while you lie on a cushioned table, taking X-rays of your lower spine and hip. This method, known as a central DEXA scan, is the most proficient to predict your risk of fractures.

What should you expect the day of the exam?

You will be asked to fill out a brief form prior to having the procedure done.

The exam is performed with you lying on your back. Typically, scans include your lower back (lumbar spine) and both of your hips. When examining the hip area, a brace is placed between your feet, which are turned inward to help rotate your hip. If testing is not available for spine or hips, a scan of the forearm is done. The scanner slowly passes over the area of interest as it collects information.

An exam usually takes about 15 minutes, and your healthcare provider will receive the results.

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