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Bone Mineral Density Tests

Bone Mineral Density Tests Introduction

Osteoporosis (or porous bone) is a disease in which bones become weak and are more likely to break. Without prevention or treatment, osteoporosis can progress without pain or symptoms until a bone breaks (fractures).

  • Fractures commonly occur in the hip, spine, and wrist.
  • Osteoporosis is the underlying cause of more than 1.5 million fractures annually (300,000 hip fractures, approximately 700,000 vertebral fractures, 250,000 wrist fractures, and more than 300,000 fractures in other areas).
  • The estimated national cost (hospitals and nursing homes) for osteoporosis and related injuries is $14 billion each year in the United States.

Osteoporosis is not just an "old woman's disease." Although it is more common in white or Asian women older than 50 years of age, osteoporosis can occur in almost any person at any age. In fact, more than 2 million American men have osteoporosis, and in women, bone loss can begin as early as 25 years of age. Building strong bones and reaching peak bone density (maximum strength and solidness), especially before the age of 30, can be the best defense against developing osteoporosis. Also, a healthy lifestyle can keep bones strong, especially for people older than 30 years of age.

Osteoporosis is more or less preventable for most people. Prevention is very important because, while treatments for osteoporosis are in place, currently no cure exists. Prevention of osteoporosis involves several aspects, including nutrition, exercise, lifestyle, and, most importantly, early screening with bone density tests.

The Importance of Screening for Osteoporosis

Early detection of low bone mass (osteopenia) or osteoporosis is the most important step for prevention and treatment. If osteopenia or osteoporosis has occurred, a person can take action to stop the progression of bone loss. Remember, effective treatment or prevention cannot take place if a person does not know he or she has, or is at risk for, osteoporosis.

The only way to accurately test the strength and solidness of the bones is with bone mineral density (BMD) tests. Bone mineral density tests measure the solidness and mass (bone density) in the spine, hip, and/or wrist, which are the most common sites of fractures due to osteoporosis. Other tests measure bone density in the heel or hand. These tests are performed like X-rays. They are painless, noninvasive, and safe. The risk of radiation is very minimal, much less than even having a chest X-ray film.

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Osteoporosis (Primary): Differential Diagnoses & Workup »

Osteoporosis is a systemic skeletal disease characterized by low bone mass and micro-architectural deterioration of bone tissue, with a consequent increase in bone fragility and susceptibility to bone fracture.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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