The standard way of measuring bone density is a simple test called Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA). The DEXA scan is an accurate and reliable technique of assessing the strength of bones. A DEXA scan usually measures bone mass (the amount of bone) in the spine and hip and wrist – parts of the body which are more at risk of osteoporotic fractures.
Osteoporosis is a disease in which the density and quality of bone is reduced, increasing the risk of fracture. It affects around one in three women and one in five men around the world.
Osteoporosis, which literally means “porous bone”, is a disease in which the density and quality of bone are reduced. As the bones become more porous and fragile, the risk of fracture is greatly increased. The loss of bone occurs “silently” and progressively. Often there are no symptoms until the first fracture occurs. The most common fractures associated with osteoporosis occur at the hip, spine and wrist. The incidence of these fractures, particularly at the hip and spine, increases with age in both women and men.
Of notable concern are vertebral (spinal) and hip fractures. Vertebral fractures can result in serious consequences, including loss of height, intense back pain and deformity. A hip fracture often requires surgery and may result in loss of independent living.
The good news is that osteoporosis is now a largely treatable condition and, with a combination of lifestyle changes and appropriate medical treatment, many fractures can be avoided.
The Importance of Early Diagnosis
Men and women over 60 are at higher risk of osteoporosis than younger people. Nevertheless, it is possible to have osteopenia (low bone mass) or osteoporosis at a much earlier age. As osteoporosis has no obvious symptoms other than a fracture when the bone is already significantly weakened, it is important to go to your doctor if any of the risk factors apply to you. By making positive lifestyle changes and following appropriate treatment strategies in consultation with a doctor, osteoporotic fractures can be prevented. Your doctor will take a thorough medical history that includes information on any recent fractures and may determine that the next step is to have a bone mineral density (BMD) test.
Information provided by GE Healthcare