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Osteoporosis screening

Assess your risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures with a bone density scan.

At least 44 million Americans are affected by osteoporosis, a bone disease that develops when bone mineral density and bone mass decreases, or osteopenia, commonly referred to as low bone density. Due to an aging population, the number of Americans with osteoporosis or low bone density is expected to increase significantly.

These bone health issues can have a significant impact on your life, so it’s important to take control of your bone health by talking with your doctor about osteoporosis prevention, screening for osteoporosis and treatment options.

Are you at risk for osteoporosis?

There are many factors that impact your risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. Some osteoporosis factors can be controlled, such as your intake of calcium and vitamin D, regular physical activity, alcohol or tobacco use, and low body weight.

However, some factors can’t be controlled, including:

  • Gender: Women are more likely to encounter bone loss, especially after the onset of menopause. Women aged 65 and older are at increased risk. Women’s preventative screenings.
  • Body mass: Individuals with small or thin frames have less bone mass and are at higher risk than those with larger frames.
  • Family history of fractures: If you have a parent or sibling who has had a fracture related to osteoporosis, you may be at increased risk. Talk to your doctor about a bone density scan.

Common symptoms of osteoporosis

Osteoporosis usually does not cause symptoms. Most people who have osteoporosis or osteopenia won’t even realize it until they suffer a bone fracture.

For people who do have symptoms of osteoporosis, they commonly present as:

  • Changes in posture
  • Loss of height over time
  • Chronic back pain
  • Bones that break or fracture easily

Diagnosing and treating osteoporosis starts with a bone density scanning. Bone density scans (also called bone densitometry or DXA scans) are quick and painless.

Talk to your clinician or doctor about scheduling a bone density screening if you’ve had a recent bone fracture or use steroids. Women 65 and older, regardless of risk factors, should also consider osteoporosis screening.

How bone density screenings work

Bone densitometry is an advanced form of X-ray used to look at the mineral density of your bones to help determine your risk of fracture.

During the osteoporosis scan, you’ll lie on your back on a padded table while your hip and spine are scanned. Like any other X-ray, bone density scans are painless and typically take less than 10 minutes.

After your DXA scan, you’ll receive a comprehensive bone density assessment with information for you, your primary care doctor and other members of your care team.

The assessment will indicate your risk of bone fracture.  With this information, you and your care team can decide the best treatment strategy for your unique needs.

Planning for your osteoporosis screening appointment

Planning ahead for your bone density scan appointment can help it go more smoothly. Here are some ways to prepare for osteoporosis screening:

  • You may eat normally on the day of your exam, but you shouldn’t take a calcium tablet for 24 hours prior.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Avoid wearing anything with zippers, belts or buttons made of metal.
  • Tell your doctor if you have participated in a barium study. You may need to wait three weeks before you can have a bone density scan.
  • Pregnant women will be asked to reschedule the exam until post-pregnancy.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)