A bone mineral density test uses X-rays to measure the amount of minerals namely calcium in your bones. This test is important for people who are at risk for osteoporosis, especially women and older adults.
A bone mineral density test uses X-rays to measure the amount of minerals namely calcium in your bones. This test is important for people who are at risk for osteoporosis, especially women and older adults. The test is also referred to as dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). It’s an important test for osteoporosis, which is the most common type of bone disease. Osteoporosis causes your bone tissue to become thin and frail over time and leads to disabling fractures.
The test is also referred to as dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). It’s an important test for osteoporosis, which is the most common type of bone disease. Osteoporosis causes your bone tissue to become thin and frail over time and leads to disabling fractures.
- Bone remodellingBone is living tissue with holes inside. The inside has a honeycomb-like appearance. Bones affected by osteoporosis have larger holes and are more fragile.
- Keys to bone balanceParathyroid hormone (PTH) is an important contributor to the bone remodeling process. High levels of PTH can activate osteoclasts and cause excessive bone breakdown.
How to Identify?
Your doctor may order a bone mineral density test if they suspect that your bones are becoming weaker, you’re displaying symptoms of osteoporosis, or you’ve reached the age when preventive screening is necessary.
- All women over the age of 65
- Women under the age of 65 who have a high risk of fractures
Women have an increased risk for osteoporosis if they smoke or consume three or more alcoholic beverages per day. They’re also at an increased risk if they have:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Early menopause
- An eating disorder resulting in low body weight
- A family history of osteoporosis
- A “fragility fracture” (a broken bone caused by regular activities)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Significant height loss (a sign of compression fractures in the spinal column)
- A sedentary lifestyle that includes minimal weight bearing activities
A bone mineral density test is painless and requires no medication. You simply lie on a bench or table while the test is performed. The test may take place in your doctor’s office, if they have the right equipment. Otherwise, you may be sent to a specialized testing facility. Some pharmacies and health clinics also have portable scanning machines.
- Central DXA
This scan involves lying on a table while an X-ray machine scans your hip, spine, and other bones of your torso.
- Peripheral DXA
This scan examines the bones of your forearm, wrist, fingers, or heel. This scan is normally used as a screening tool to learn if you need a central DXA. The test takes only a few minutes.
What to Do?
Your doctor will review your test results. The results, referred to as a T-score, are based on the bone mineral density of a healthy 30-year-old compared to your own value. A score of 0 is considered ideal.
The NIH offers the following guidelines for bone density scores:
- Normal: between 1 and -1
- Low bone mass: -1 to -2.5
- Osteoporosis: -2.5 or lower
- Severe osteoporosis: -2.5 or lower with bone fractures
Your doctor will discuss your results with you. Depending on your results and the reason for the test, your doctor may want to do follow-up testing. They will work with you to come up with a treatment plan to tackle any issues.