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Treatment of Osteoporosis

Facts on the Treatment of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis (porous bone) is a disease whereby bones become weak and, therefore, are more likely to break. Without prevention or treatment, osteoporosis can progress without pain or symptoms until a bone breaks (fractures). Fractures commonly occur at the hip, spine, and wrist.

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 at any age. Osteoporosis can affect men, particularly after the age of 65. Building strong bones and reaching peak bone density (maximum strength and solidness) 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.

While treatments are available for osteoporosis, currently, no cure exists. Treatment of osteoporosis involves several aspects, including proper screening and diagnosis, medication, nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle changes.

What Tests Do Health-Care Professionals Use for Osteoporosis Screening and Diagnosis?

The Importance of Early Diagnosis

Early detection of low bone mass (osteopenia) or osteoporosis is the most important step for treatment to be effective. If osteopenia or osteoporosis is diagnosed, a person can take action to stop the progression of bone loss. Knowing the risk factors for osteoporosis in order to begin effective prevention or treatment is important.

Certain factors, such as female sex, family history of osteoporosis, small body size, and an inactive lifestyle, are associated with an increased risk of developing osteoporosis. Take the one-minute osteoporosis risk test from the International Osteoporosis Foundation to find out more. If any of these risk factors or other signs of osteoporosis exist, the doctor may recommend measuring bone mass. Because the most common sites of fractures due to osteoporosis are the spine, wrist, and/or hip, bone mineral density (BMD) tests often measure the solidness and mass of bone (bone density) at those sites, as well as in the heel or hand. Bone mineral density tests are performed like X-rays. They are painless, noninvasive, and safe.

Bone mineral density test results are helpful to do the following:

  • Detect low bone density (osteopenia), which can predict the chance of developing a fracture
  • Confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis
  • Determine the rate of bone loss and monitor the effects of treatment (tests done to monitor treatment are usually conducted every two years or so)

Methods of Diagnosis

Several tests are available to assess bone density. These tests are not painful, and they are noninvasive (meaning that they do not involve surgery). The most common types of tests are listed below:

  • Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA or DEXA) scanning is a special low radiation X-ray that can detect even very small amounts of bone loss. DXA scans are the most commonly used method of bone mineral density measurement. They often are used to measure spine and hip bone densities. Two other types of scans are the following:
    • Peripheral dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (pDXA) measures the bone density in the forearm, finger, and heel.
    • Single-energy X-ray absorptiometry (SXA) measures the bone density in the heel.
  • Quantitative computed tomography (QCT) scanning measures the bones of the lower spine, which change as a person ages. The peripheral QCT scan can measure the forearm bone density.
  • Quantitative ultrasound (QUS) uses sound waves to measure bone density at the heel, shin, and finger.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/6/2016

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Treatment of Osteoporosis:

Treatment of Osteoporosis - Diet

What dietary changes have you made since your osteoporosis diagnosis?

Treatment of Osteoporosis - Medications

Please share what medications you take for osteoporosis.

Low-fat diary products help strengthen bones.

Foods That Help Prevent Osteoporosis

Many foods can help prevent osteoporosis. A number of scientific studies have shown that eating more fruits and vegetables leads to stronger bones. Low-fat dairy products are high in calcium, and many are fortified with vitamin D and help strengthen bones. Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines are high in vitamin D. Canned sardines and salmon (with bones) are high in calcium.


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Osteoporosis: Treatment & Medication »

Osteoporosis is typically asymptomatic until a fracture occurs.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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