Healthy Bones and Joints
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Bone Density Test

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes weak, thinning bones. This leaves the bones at greater risk of breaking. Your doctor can help you determine your risk of developing osteoporosis by taking your personal and family medical history, and by doing a bone density test or bone mass measurement.

What is a bone density test?

A bone density test, also known as bone mass measurement or bone mineral density test, measures the strength and density of your bones as you approach menopause and, when the test is repeated sometime later, can help determine how quickly you are losing bone mass and density. These tests are painless, noninvasive, and safe. They compare your bone density with standards for what is expected in someone of your age, gender, and size, and to the optimal peak bone density of a healthy young adult of the same gender. Bone density testing can help to:

  • Detect low bone density before a fracture occurs

  • Confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis if you have a fracture

  • Predict your chances of fracturing in the future

  • Determine your rate of bone loss or monitor the effects of treatment if the test is conducted at intervals of a year or more

What are some reasons for having a bone density test?

If you have one or more of the following risk factors for osteoporosis, you may want to consider having a bone density test:

  • You have already had a bone fracture that may be the result of thinning bones.

  • Your mother, grandmother, or another close relative had osteoporosis or bone fractures.

  • Over a long period of time, you have taken medicine that speeds up bone loss, such as corticosteroids for treating rheumatoid arthritis or other conditions, or some anti-seizure medicines.

  • You have low body weight, a slight build, or a light complexion.

  • You have a history of cigarette smoking or heavy drinking.

Online Medical Reviewer: Joseph, Thomas, N., MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Raymond Kent, BSN, MSN, RN
Last Review Date: 5/1/2018

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