What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis or “porous bone” is a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue with a consequent increase in bone fragility and susceptibility to fracture.
How common is Osteoporosis?
It is a public health problem affecting 55% of people 50 years and older. In the U.S. today, it is estimated that 10 million already have the disease and 34 million are estimated to have a low bone mass placing them at an increased risk for osteoporosis.
Of the 10 million, 8 million are women and 2 million are men. While Caucasian and Asian women are at highest risk, people of all ethnic backgrounds are at risk. It can strike at any age and is often known as the “silent thief”.
What are the symptoms of Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is often known as the silent disease because bone loss can occur without symptoms. Most spine fractures occur with minimal trauma such as a strain, bump or fall which collapses a vertebra. This results in severe back pain, height loss and eventually a stooped posture.
What are the most common areas for an osteoporotic fracture?
Any bone can sustain an osteoporotic fracture. Vertebral fractures are the most common and usually result from a fall (30-60%). Hip fractures are the second most common followed by the forearm.
Approximately 65,000 women die of fracture complications each year and about 20% need long term care for their fractures.
What are T–scores?
You may hear your doctor use the term T-scores to describe your bone density.
T-score compares the patient’s bone mineral density with the mean value in young adult white women. (T-Score interpretation)
How does one detect Osteoporosis?
Ordinary X-rays do not detect osteoporosis until the condition is advanced. Specialized tests called bone density tests (DEXA Scans) can measure density in various parts of the body. These tests are safe and painless. A DEXA Scan can:
- Detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs
- Predict chances of a future fracture
- Determine the rate of bone loss and monitor treatment when done at appropriate intervals.
Who should have a bone density test?
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that:
- All postmenopausal women under age 65 who have one or more additional risk factors besides menopause
- All women over age 65 regardless of other risk factors
- Postmenopausal women that present with fractures
- Women considering a medication for osteoporosis if bone density testing will facilitate that decision
Is bone mineral density testing covered by insurance?
Please check with your insurance carrier and your doctor since coverage is not uniform. In general, women who are postmenopausal and have any of the above mentioned risk factors are eligible.
Medicare covers bone density tests for individuals at risk for osteoporosis. Under Medicare the following individuals (men and women) are covered for a bone density test:
- Women over age 65 who are estrogen deficient
- Osteopenia or low bone mass on X-ray
- Prolonged glucocorticoid therapy (> 3 months with 7.5 mg of prednisone or equivalent)
- Previous fracture
- Primary hyperparathyroidism
- Monitoring therapy for osteoporosis to see if it is working
Who is at risk for Osteoporosis?
Listed below are some risk factors for low bone mass.
- Female gender
- Advancing age
- Caucasian or Asian
- Family history
- Age at menopause previous fractures
- Low body weight
- Thin small bones/small frame
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Low calcium intake
- Low vitamin
- Previous fractures
- Alcoholism and smoking
- Medications (steroids and some anticonvulsants)
Who should be treated?
The National Osteoporosis Foundation has the following recommendations for osteoporosis treatment:
- Women with bone mass density T-scores below –2 in the absence of osteoporosis risk factors
- Women with bone mass density T-scores below –1.5 if other risk factors are present
Your physician will analyze your bone density results using T-scores in conjunction with risk factors. Depending on these factors, treatment plans and subsequent follow up bone density tests are recommended.
Is it important to have follow-up scans on the same scanner?
Yes, the results need to be compared to prior scans. The ISCD recommends that scans be done at the same facility, on the same machine and preferably by the same technician.
The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
This website is offered by InterMountain Medical Clinic to our regional community as an informational resource. If you are experiencing a serious health call 911 immediately. Transmission of the information on this web site is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute a physician-patient relationship between IMMC and the website user.