Osteoporosis - Exams and Tests

Testing for Osteoporosis

Exams and Tests

A diagnosis of osteoporosis is based on your medical history, a physical exam, and a test to measure your bone thickness (density). During a physical exam, your doctor will:

  • Measure your height and compare the results with past measurements.
  • Examine your body for evidence of previous broken bones, such as changes in the shape of your long bones and spineClick here to see an illustration.. See a picture of a compression fracture of the spineClick here to see an illustration..

A bone mineral density test measures the mineral density (such as calcium) in your bones using a special X-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, or ultrasound. From this information, your doctor can estimate the strength of your bones. See a picture of a bone mineral density testClick here to see an illustration..

Routine urine and blood tests can rule out other medical conditions, such as hyperparathyroidism, hyperthyroidism, or Cushing's syndrome, that can cause bone loss. In men, blood tests to measure testosterone levels can see whether low levels are causing bone loss.

If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you may need to follow up regularly with your doctor to monitor your condition.

Early Detection

If you or your doctor thinks you may be at risk for developing osteoporosis, you may have a screening test to check your bone thickness. A screening test may be advisable if you have:

  • A fracture in a minor injury that may have been caused by osteoporosis.
  • Another medical condition that is known to cause bone thinning.
  • Risk factors for or symptoms that suggest osteoporosis.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all women age 65 and older routinely have a bone mineral density test to screen for osteoporosis. If you are at increased risk for fractures caused by osteoporosis, routine screening should begin at age 60.

Most experts recommend that the decision to screen women age 60 and younger be made on an individual basis, depending on the risk of developing osteoporosis and whether the test results will help with treatment decisions. To help you decide whether you should be tested for osteoporosis, see:

Click here to view a Decision Point.Should I have bone mineral testing to diagnose osteoporosis?

Experts recommend that men older than age 70, or with other risk factors for osteoporosis, have a bone mineral density test.

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