Osteoporosis (Bone Density) Screening
Osteoporosis screening (often referred to as a bone density test) is conducted by using a specialized ultrasound to measure the density of the shinbone, indicating if bone density is lower than normal. This ultrasound is painless and non-invasive. Bones can become less dense over time when new bone is created at a slower pace than bone is lost. For this reason, it is important for both men and women to get a bone density test. Osteoporosis is serious, and causes over 2 million broken bones every year.*
Bones are living tissue, and the body is constantly forming new bone mass. Osteoporosis occurs when bone structure is lost faster than it can be replaced by new bone growth. When bones become porous and less dense, they are more likely to break. In its early stages, osteoporosis does not exhibit symptoms, and a broken bone is sometimes the first indication that a person has osteoporosis. Many people find it difficult to recover from broken bones, especially those breaks that require surgery, and they lose their ability to get around and participate in activities.
Osteoporosis affects about 54 million people in the U.S., men as well as women. Many things can cause osteoporosis, including a diet low in calcium or Vitamin D (Vitamin D deficiency tests are widely available). Certain endocrine conditions, autoimmune disorders, digestive disorders, and certain cancers can also cause osteoporosis. Some medical treatments are also linked to low bone density, including weight loss surgery, so be sure to communicate with your doctor if you have had any of these conditions or procedures. Treatment options include medications and lifestyle changes. Exercise strengthens bones, even low impact exercise such as walking and yoga. This movement strengthens bones and reduces the chance of fracture. There are also several medications available to treat osteoporosis. They work by slowing bone loss.
Osteoporosis Risk Screening Details
Osteoporosis risk assessment (bone density test) is conducted using pulse echo ultrasound on the tibia (shinbone), which is prone to fracture with osteoporosis. The bone screening is painless and non-invasive. The ultrasound utilized is state of the art, and indicates risk for further bone density diminishment. Your results letter, which will be mailed within 21 days of your screening, will indicate your risk of further bone diminishment in one of three categories: low probability, additional investigation needed, or high probability. If your screening results are in either the additional investigation needed or high probability categories, you should discuss your results with your physician. Your physician may or may not determine that further testing or treatment is necessary.
Warning Signs of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is silent in its early stages; a broken bone is sometimes the first indication that a person has osteoporosis. There are changes in the body that can indicate osteoporosis is developing, and should be brought to your doctor's attention:
- Bone fractures after age 50
- Change in posture; becoming more hunched forward
- Sudden back pain
- Loss of height
Additional risk factors include:
- Being a post-menopausal woman
- Having a small, slight body frame
- A family history of osteoporosis
- Being of caucasian, Asian, or Latino heritage
- A diet low in calcium and vitamin D (you can get a simple vitamin D test; click here for details)
- Inactivity—exercise strengthens bones
- Smoking, either past or present
- Consuming large amounts of alcohol
Certain conditions and treatments can put you at higher risk of developing osteoporosis, so people who have any of the conditions on this list should consider getting an osteoporosis screening:
- Endocrine conditions such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, or hypothyroidism
- Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Digestive conditions like Celiac disease
- Weight loss surgery
- Hematologic or blood disorders such as lymphoma or leukemia
Risk Factors for Osteoporosis
- Postmenopausal women
- Race (Caucasians, Asians, and Hispanics are at greater risk)
- People with small, thin body frames
- Diet low in calcium and vitamin D (vitamin d tests are available with a simple finger-stick blood sample)
- Smoking, past or present
- Physical inactivity
- Heavy alcohol consumption
Who is this bone density screening for?
All adults age 50+, including men, and adults age 40+ who have any risk factors for bone loss should receive a bone density test. About 54 million Americans have osteoporosis and low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis. Studies suggest that approximately one in two women and one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.*
40+ with risk factors
What is an osteoporosis screening and why should I be screened?Osteoporosis causes the bones to become less dense and more fragile, increasing the likelihood of a fracture. Osteoporosis is silent in its early stages, meaning it can develop for years without symptoms. Many people discover they have osteoporosis when they break a bone. The most common bones that fracture due to osteoporosis are the spine, the hips, and the wrist. You may want to add a vitamin D screening, which can give you a more complete picture of your risk for osteoporosis, and is available with a simple finger-stick blood sample.
Why do you measure my shinbone for the osteoporosis screening?The shinbone is prone to fracture when a person has osteoporosis, and it is a weight bearing bone. Measuring the cortical thickness of the tibia (shinbone), as well as other patient data, are used to determine the likelihood of continued bone diminishment.
Isn’t osteoporosis a woman’s disease?More women than men do experience osteoporosis, but 3 million men in the U.S. have osteoporosis, and many may not be aware of it*.
*National Osteoporosis Foundation, https://www.nof.org/patients/what-is-osteoporosis/