Osteoporosis Screening: They Don't Have to be Frightening

November 1, 2017 Jeanette Stern

Osteoporosis Screening: What to Expect and When it Should Be Done

The dangers of osteoporosis continue to rise around the world, including continuing misconceptions that it only afflicts women. In truth, men and women are vulnerable to the disease with 10 million in the U.S. already diagnosed. UCSF Medical Center notes another 34 million people have low bone mass and face a strong possibility they'll end up with osteoporosis.

To truly know if you or someone you love has this disease, an osteoporosis screening is going to become essential. Otherwise known as a bone density scan, you'll want to know when you should have it done and what to expect.

No one should feel afraid about doing this because it's simple, noninvasive, and isn't painful. Even so, you do need to prepare properly.

Who Needs a Bone Density Scan?

Women should get tested, especially if over 65 years old. Men can wait until 70, though it's worth talking to your doctor about it first.

It's possible your doctor would recommend this scan when you're younger if you face certain medical conditions. For example, if you're already showing early signs of bone conditions, consider testing. Some imminent signs of this include easily breaking bones, or signs of arthritis at a younger age.

Your doctor would start testing early if you have a low body weight, you smoke, drink heavily, or have low Vitamin D levels. The latter is usually scoped out in a simple physical.

Preparing for the Test

You'll appreciate knowing the preparation involved in a bone density test is very simple, so you don't have to worry about fasting. As Mayo Clinic points out, the test is usually done quickly and can sometimes occur in a local pharmacy.

For a more thorough test, you'll want to go directly through your local clinic or hospital. One important thing to remember is you can't take any calcium supplements for up to 24 hours. Plus, you need to wear loose, comfortable clothing to prevent any obstructions during the scan.

Much like other body scanning, you can't wear metal objects on your clothing. Remove any metal items you're carrying like keys or coins.

What Occurs During a Procedure

When done in a hospital, you'll have to lie down on a padded platform while a mechanical arm scans your body. This is usually a central device as opposed to a peripheral device used in pharmacies. With the latter, you'll only have testing done on your finger, wrist, or heel. Basically, peripheral devices test only the far ends of your skeleton to see if there's any deterioration.

A full central device is a more detailed way to scan your bones, especially if you're showing problems in your spine or hip.

Doing the full scan in a hospital takes 10 minutes to half an hour. Radiation is very minimal and even less than you'd get from a chest x-ray. So you can rest easy about the risks, even if you don't want to do one more than once.

In contrast to the hospital procedure, a Bone Density DEXA takes 5 minutes maximum and can be performed inside the comfort of your own home. A trained MedXM technician arrives with the device and simply asks you to place your foot inside of it. In a matter of minutes, you have an accurate  screening. 

Your Results

By going to a hospital, it's going to take several days to see your results from your osteoporosis screening. If you opt for an in-home DEXA screening, you get results back immediately.

When meeting again with your doctor, they'll show you the scoring system used on bone scans. You'll see two scores: A T-score and Z-score.

Anywhere from -1 to above on your T-score proves your bones are still healthy. A score between -1 and -2.5 shows signs you're heading toward osteoporosis. And if you're below -2.5, you likely already have the disease.

In the Z-Score, you'll see a number designating what your osteoporosis risks are based on your age and other factors. Whatever that number is can help your doctor determine what the best course of treatment is to prevent any further bone loss. Taking action before you hit 50 years old can start to reverse damage.

Contact us at MedXM to learn more about osteoporosis and how we can help provide better connections between you and your local clinics.

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