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Osteoporosis - could you be at risk? - Part 2 of 5

Posted Jul 27 2010 12:00am
Continued from Part 1

Osteoporosis can be a silent killer - and diagnosis is a critical issue.

Diagnosis

Osteoporosis is a silent disease. You might not know you have it until you break a bone. A bone mineral density test is the best way to check your bone health.

Osteoporosis does not have any symptoms until a fracture occurs. Women and men with osteoporosis most often break bones in the hip, spine, and wrist. But any fracture in an older person could be a warning sign that the bone is weaker than optimal.

Some people may be unaware that they have already experienced one or more spine fractures. Height loss of one inch or more may be the first sign that someone has experienced spine fractures due to osteoporosis. Multiple spine fractures can cause a curved spine, stooped posture, back pain, and back fatigue.

Women and men who have had a fracture are at high risk of experiencing another one. A fracture over the age of 45 or several fractures before that age may be a warning sign that a person has already developed osteoporosis. People over the age of 45 who have experienced a fracture should talk to their doctor about getting evaluated for osteoporosis.

The test used to diagnose osteoporosis is called a bone density test. This test is a measure of how strong -- or dense -- your bones are and can help your doctor predict your risk for having a fracture. Bone density tests are painless, safe, and require no preparation on your part.

Bone density tests compare your bone density to the bones of an average healthy young adult. The test result, known as a T-score, tells you how strong your bones are, whether you have osteoporosis or osteopenia -- low bone mass -- and your risk for having a fracture.

Some bone density tests measure the strength of the hip, spine, and/or wrist, which are the bones that break most often in people with osteoporosis. Other tests measure bone in the heel or hand. Although no bone density test is 100 percent accurate, it is the single most important diagnostic test to predict whether a person will have a fracture in the future. 

The preferred bone density test is a DXA scan of the hip and spine. This test shows if you have normal bone density, low bone mass, or osteoporosis. It is the only bone density test that can be used to diagnose osteoporosis and monitor bone density changes over time in response to treatment.

Medicare will usually cover the cost of a bone density test in women age 65 and older. Under certain conditions, such as significant risk factors for osteoporosis, Medicare will cover women under age 65, men, and a followup bone density test every 2 years for certain individuals.

Heed the warning signs
Some people may be unaware that they have already experienced one or more spine fractures. Height loss of one inch or more may be the first sign that someone has experienced spine fractures due to osteoporosis. Multiple spine fractures can cause a curved spine, stooped posture, back pain, and back fatigue.

Part 3 of 5 - Risk factors, what you can change and what you cannot change.


Thank you.
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