What Are The Different Methods Of Diagnosing Osteoporosis?

person suffering from wrist pain

Osteoporosis is a disease that affects your bone. It is characterized by the deterioration of bone tissue and the significant loss of bone strength. Osteoporosis mostly affects women and people who are above 60 years of age. Statistics show that around 53 million people in the United States have osteoporosis or are at the risk of developing it.

What Are The Symptoms Of Osteoporosis?

There won’t be any symptoms or warning signs in the early stages of osteoporosis. The symptoms usually start to appear when the person has a fracture. The early symptoms of the disease are weak and brittle nails, receding gums, and weakened grip strength. When the osteoporosis becomes severe, it can cause fracture from even a strong cough or sneeze. Back pain, neck pain, and height loss are also the symptoms of osteoporosis.

What Are The Steps For Diagnosing Osteoporosis?

There are several steps for diagnosing osteoporosis in a person. The doctors will check your medical history and tour lifestyle factors including drinking and smoking habits. The next step is performing a physical exam. The doctor will measure the height of the patient and compare it with previous measurements. If the doctors identify a change in height of the person, he will recommend a bone density test. The most common density test is the dual energy X-ray absorptiometry scan.

What Is BMD Test?

The BMD test or the bone marrow density test is used to measure the bone density. It is the most common osteoporosis diagnosis method. The test utilizes X-rays to measure the amount of calcium and other minerals in the bone. There are different types of BMD tests. Among them, dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is the most commonly used test.

DXA is radiation in low density, which is capable of detecting bone loss even in small percentages. It is able to measure the bone density of the whole skeleton, but it is mainly used to measure the bone density of hip and spine. Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry is the most common method of assessing osteoporosis in men and women over the age of 60.

A BMD test is completely painless and requires no medications. During the procedure, you will be lying on a table and the X-ray machine scans the spine and hip bones. If the BMD test shows a standard deviation equal to or more than 2.5 from the reference measurement, the person is diagnosed with osteoporosis. After reviewing the result the doctor may recommend some lifestyle changes and some therapies to slow down bone loss.

What Is Bone Turnover Markers?

Bone turnover markers are mainly used in clinical studies to check the mechanisms and efficiency of new drugs. Depending on their origination from the bone mineral unit, bone turnover markers are categorized into three; bone formation markers, bone resorption markers, and markers of osteoclast regulatory proteins. Regardless of the underlying cause, these markers assess the changes in skeletal metabolism.

The fracture prediction in postmenopausal women will be improved when the bone marrow density test is combined with bone turnover markers. There is one significant advantage for bone turnover markers over bone marrow density test. You can estimate the effect of the treatment in its early stages.

A patient who is monitoring with dual energy X-ray absorptiometry usually takes a couple of years to identify any significant changes from the treatment. But with the changes in bone turnover markers, we can identify the effects of the treatment in just a few weeks. Bone turnover markers are also used to check the patient’s adherence to the treatment and the effectiveness of the medications on the patient.

How Does Radiological Assessment Of Vertebral Fracture Help To Diagnose Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis induces severe vertebral fractures. The first symptoms of it are severe back pain and loss of height. A semi-quantitative method based on visual inspection has been developed for assessing the severity of vertebral fractures induced by osteoporosis.

By analyzing the morphological changes and extend of the reduction in height of the vertebra, you can assess the severity of the vertebral fractures. It can also be assessed by differentiating the fracture from non-fracture deformities.

Based on the extent of height reduction, each vertebra is assigned with grades. These grades will help to identify how severe osteoporosis affected the person. One major advantage of radiological assessment of vertebral fracture is that it helps to identify new deformities occurring on a prevalent fracture on the vertebra.

Are There Any Risks Involved In Osteoporosis Tests?

Usually, a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry scan does not cause any pain. However, just like any other X-ray scans, it involves exposure to some minor radiation. But the extent of the radiation due to dual energy X-ray absorptiometry is only one-tenth of the radiation due to traditional X-ray. Pregnant women are not recommended to take dual energy X-ray absorptiometry scans because even the minor radiation is a risk to the infant.

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