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What Is Bone Loss (cont.)

How Is Bone Loss Detected?

The only reliable way to detect bone loss is to have a bone mineral density (BMD) test. People with strong risk factors for osteoporosis should have a BMD test. Risk factors include the following:

  • Estrogen deficiency from early menopause (age < 45 years), absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea for > 1 year), or hypogonadism (impaired gonads, which are the ovaries or testes, or impaired sex hormones, which are estrogen or testosterone)
  • Long-term corticosteroid or anticonvulsant (antiseizure) drug therapy
  • Family history of hip fracture
  • Low body mass index (BMI)
  • Chronic disorders associated with osteoporosis, such as anorexia nervosa or liver disease
  • Previous broken bones related to having weak bones
  • Loss of height (widow's hump)
  • Female sex
  • Asian or white race
  • Poor diet without enough calcium
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking
  • Regular use of large amounts of alcohol

Recommendations in the United States are that all women 65 years and older should have a BMD test. Postmenopausal women younger than 65 years who have one or more risk factors (in addition to being postmenopausal and female) should have a BMD test. Tests that are used to measure BMD include dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), quantitative computed tomography (QCT), and quantitative ultrasound (QUS). See Bone Mineral Density Tests for more information.

For More Information

National Osteoporosis Foundation

International Society for Clinical Densitometry Headquarters

National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases - National Resource Center, Osteoporosis

Medically reviewed by Aimee V. HachigianGould, MD; American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/21/2014
Medical Author:

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Bone Loss:

Bone Loss - Medications

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Bone Loss - Patient Experience

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