More often than not, people are oblivious about their health until something serious happens to them. It’s a matter of knowing that tests for early detection are available out there—and osteoporosis is one such condition that often goes unnoticed.
Carlo Sumpaico, M.D., an orthopedic specialist at The Medical City, gives an overview of the disease. “Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by a decreased density of bone which reduces bone strength and thus, increases the risk of bones breaking,” he explains. “People with osteoporosis most often do not know they are affected until they break a bone or their doctor requests for a screening test. Fractures can occur with minor trauma and even during coughing or sneezing,” Dr. Sumpaico adds.
Adults reach their peak bone mass sometime between the third and fourth decades of life. After that, there’s a normal rate of decline in bone density. For women, this is further compounded by the onset of menopause, which adds an extra degree of bone loss. In general, women start off with a lower bone density than men and therefore, postmenopausal women are ultimately more prone to fractures as compared to men of the same age.
DXA scanning: important for health
Periodic measurement of bone density is a recommended part of the 2010 clinical guidelines of the National Osteoporosis Foundation in the U.S. Bone density may be detected using a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry test, or DXA scan. “This should not be confused with the bone scan, which is a nuclear medicine test using an injected radioactive tracer. The bone scan test is used to detect tumors, fractures, and infections in the bone,” Dr. Sumpaico emphasizes. “The DXA scan, on the other hand, is a simple X-ray test that measures bone density, the results of which are used to predict the risk of fractures.”
The DXA scan is easy to perform and requires only a low amount of radiation exposure, much less than that of a standard chest X-ray. It’s painless, quick and non-invasive, and recommended for all women aged 65 and above and men over 70—the age groups wherein osteoporosis is most likely to develop. For postmenopausal women between 50 to 65 years old, or men in the 50 to 70 age group, DXA scanning is indicated with any of the following: