What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition which gradually weakens bones, causing them to become brittle and prone to fractures. It is estimated that more than 10 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis and another 18 million have low bone density. By age 50, a woman has more than a 38% chance of developing an osteoporotic fracture during her lifetime.
Osteoporosis is a serious disease, but is treatable if detected in the early stages. Most physicians recommend a DEXA scan at the age of 40 when risk factors are present. However, if no risk factors are present, a baseline DEXA at age 50 (or at menopause) is still suggested.
A DEXA scan, or bone density measurement, will determine your bone mineral density (BMD) and compare the result with the BMD of an average young adult. If osteoporosis is detected, your physician may suggest specific diet instructions, exercise, or medication, depending upon the amount of bone mineral loss.
What Are the Risk Factors?
Women who are postmenopausal are at the highest risk for osteoporosis. The presence of any one of the following factors can add to your risk:
- Caucasian or Asian ethnicity
- Thin or small body structure
- Family history of osteoporosis or stress fracture
- Early menopause (before age 45)
- Cigarette smoking
- Inactive lifestyle
- Long-term use of some medications, such as steroids
- Excessive alcohol use
- Low calcium intake
- Thyroid diseases
- Eating disorders
It is possible to have osteoporosis even if you have no risk factors; therefore, it is important to discuss having a DEXA scan with your physician.
Is a DEXA Scan safe?
The radiation exposure is minimal, but you should not have this exam if you are pregnant. Please alert your physician and our staff if you might be pregnant.
DEXA scans are quick, safe, and painless, and the entire exam takes less than 30 minutes.
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