Osteoporosis, Osteopenia, and DEXA SCANS
Many individuals who come to our practice for treatment are found to be suffering from either osteoporosis or osteopenia.
Osteoporosis is a disorder in which the bones increasingly become brittle, porous, and subject to fracture. It is caused by a loss of calcium or other important mineral components, and often results in pain, lessening of height, and skeletal deformities.
Osteopenia is a general reduction in bone mass. It is less severe than osteoporosis, and is caused by the disappearance of bone tissue at a rate that exceeds formation.
When we become aware of certain risk factors in a patient, we attempt to look further into his or her current situation. Risk factors for osteoporosis and osteopenia include:
- Ethnicity – Caucasian and Asian women are at the highest level of risk.
- Low Body Weight
- Lifestyle – Cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, improper eating habits, and an inactive lifestyle are all lifestyle factors which put a person at greater risk.
- Menstrual History – Individuals who began menstruating at age 15 or older are at greater risk.
- Diet and Nutrition – Individuals who consume too much protein or caffeine, and who eat less than five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, are at greater risk.
- Family History of osteoporosis, hip fracture, or fragility fracture.
Determining the Risk: What is Your T-Score?
The T-score is an indication of the quality of your bone mass, and can indicate your risk for fracture. Specifically, it is a comparison of the patient's bone mineral density to that of a healthy thirty-year-old of the same age and ethnicity. This value is used for women who are post-menopausal, and men who are over the age of fifty. Patients with a T-score between -1.0 and -2.5 are normally diagnosed with osteopenia. Patients with a T-score which is less than -2.5 are normally diagnosed with osteoporosis.
How is it Determined?
To determine a patient's T-score, we perform a DEXA scan. DEXA is an acronym for Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry. DEXA scans are performed in our office, and we recommend that all women over the age of sixty allow us to perform one. DEXA scans are more accurate than x-rays, require less radiation than CT scans, and are less costly than most other related tests. Medicare will cover an initial DEXA scan, along with a repeat scan once every 24 months. If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis and placed on medication for it, Medicare will cover a repeat scan after one year.