Although osteoporosis has affected humans since the beginning of time, it wasn’t until 1994 that the World Health Organization officially acknowledged and defined it as a disease. Osteoporosis occurs when the body loses too much bone mass; when the body makes too little bone; or a combination of the two.
It most commonly affects women and people over the age of 40. One in three women and one in four men over age 50 will get osteoporosis. Right now, there are 54 million Americans diagnosed with the condition.
A fracture is the most common sign of osteoporosis. As bones lose density, they become brittle and are easily broken. The first bones to be affected are those in the spine. Each year, 750,000 Americans are diagnosed with spinal compression fractures related to osteoporosis. Another 750,000 experience fractures of the shoulder, wrist or hip related to osteoporosis.
Individuals with spinal compression fractures often lose height (think of your grandmother or great grandmother and how she seemed to grow shorter with each passing year). A condition commonly called “dowager’s hump” is sign of advanced osteoporosis.
Who’s at risk
Your risk for developing osteoporosis is greater if you:
• Are a postmenopausal woman
• Smoke/use tobacco products
• Have small/thin frame
• Suffer from an autoimmune disease
• Have digestive conditions such as celiac disease or IBS
• Have had bariatric (weight loss) surgery
• Have been treated for breast or prostate cancer
• Have blood disorders such as leukemia, lymphoma or sickle cell
• Suffer from Parkinson’s disease, have had a stroke or spinal cord injuries
•Suffer from, or have had, an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia
• Have endocrine or hormonal disorders, including diabetes and hyperparathyroidism
• Have other conditions such as COPD, AIDS/HIV, kidney or liver disease, malnutrition, or alcohol/drug abuse
Certain medications, including steroids, can interfere with the body’s ability to make bone. Be sure to talk with your physician or pharmacist about all medications you may be taking.
You can’t feel your bones getting weaker … and waiting for a fracture to happen is a bad idea. But there is a simple test that can reveal bone loss quickly and accurately: dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, or DEXA scan, for short. Most insurances, as well as Medicare, cover the cost of the test.
DEXA scan takes about 15 minutes to complete, is completely painless and is the most accurate method for measuring bone density. Specialized x-ray equipment captures images of the hip and spine area, which is analyzed by a computer. Results are reported in the form of a T-score and Z-score.
The T-score compares the patient’s bone density to that of a healthy 30-year-old of the same sex; the Z-score compares the results with that of an average person of the same age and sex. Lower scores mean lower bone density. A T-score of -2.5 or lower indicates osteoporosis; a T-score between -1.0 and -2.5 indicates below-normal bone density (osteopenia).
Armed with this knowledge, the patient and primary care provider can work together to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis or to better manage it.
At Lexington Diagnostic Center and Open MRI, we specialize in providing the highest-quality, customer-focused diagnostic imaging services, including DEXA scan. What’s more, our costs are always significantly lower than those at the hospital.