How is Osteoporosis Diagnosed?

Osteoporosis is often called the ‘silent disease’ because there are no symptoms, although there are risk factors we can look for.  It can only be diagnosed by undergoing a bone density test which is done before any bones are broken.  The test shows the density of our bones and the chance of breaking a bone.  As previously mentioned, as we age our bones become less dense and brittle and even a small bump can result in a fracture.

What is involved in a Bone Density Test?

Osteoporosis How is it diagnosed?

The test itself is painless and is a scan that measures your bone density usually in your hip and spine.  You lie flat on a bed, fully clothed and the machine passes over you and usually takes 10-15 minutes.  This is a DXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) machine and the test is non-invasive.   The National Osteoporosis Foundation, suggests that this type of test can ‘predict the future likelihood of breaks in other bones’ by providing a ‘T’ score.  The T-score is then combined with other risk factors to determine your actual risk of breaking a bone.

Who should have a Bone Density Test?

Anyone OVER 50 should have a bone density test – women and men.  Usually your G.P. will determine your risk factors before referring you for a test.  If you are on medication for Osteoporosis you will have this test usually every 1 – 2 years.

What are some of the risk factors to look for?

Osteoporosis Australia outlines some of the following risk factors to look for:

  • Women are at greater risk of developing Osteoporosis due to the decline of oestrogen during menopause.  Men also lose bone density as they age but their testostorone levels fall slower.
  • Family history
  • Calcium and Vitamin D deficiency
  • Weight – too thin or too overweight
  • Lack of exercise
  • Some medications
  • Low hormone levels
  • Overactive Thyroid

Osteoporosis Australia Director, Professor Peter Ebeling AO has produced a fact sheet.  The following link Are Your Bones in the Danger Zone  shows the risks categorised into Red Alert and Orange Alert and if you tick any of these you should consult your doctor.

Have you had a Bone Density Test?  Should you be discussing this with your doctor?

In the next article, I discuss Why Exercise is important in maintaining good bone strength

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10 thoughts on “How is Osteoporosis Diagnosed?

  1. Kathleen - Bloggers Lifestyle

    Very informative, Sue. If it is a matter of a few lifestyle changes then we should take them seriously and help ourselves to prevent osteoporosis. Your advice to have a test is good to let us know exactly where we are at with bone density. None of us want to lose our mobility.


    1. Sue Loncaric Post author

      Thanks Kathleen I didn’t realise you could have a bone density test from 50 I’ve never had one. Think I will make put that on my medical ‘to do’ list.

  2. Charlotte

    This is such a great post, I honestly didn’t know much about osteoporosis and I didn’t realise you could get a test that can determine bone density, this would be so useful in taking preventative measures!

    1. Sue Loncaric Post author

      Thanks Charlotte I’m pleased you learned something to keep you healthy when you get older. Never too early or too late to learn.

    1. Sue Loncaric Post author

      Yes Michele I’ve put a bone density test on my medical ‘to do’ list now that I know I can have one after 50. I think my exercise helps but still it is good to be checked out and given the all clear.

  3. Wendy

    I’ve never had a bone density test, but several women in my husband’s immediate family have “pre-osteoporosis” (it has a name, but I can’t remember it). Any type of weight bearing exercise is helpful, even if you just carry hand weights while walking. Obviously, the more you do, the better, but every little bit helps.

    1. Sue Loncaric Post author

      I haven’t either Wendy but it is on my list of medical ‘to do’s’. I do weight bearing exercises and have done for a number of years so hopefully that will help.


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