Osteoporosis, or porous bone, is a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural eterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and an increased risk of fractures of the hip, spine, and wrist. Men as well as women are affected by osteoporosis, a disease that can be prevented and treated. In the United States, more than 40 million people either already have osteoporosis or are at high risk due to low bone mass.
Osteoporosis is often called a silent disease because bone loss occurs without symptoms. People may not know that they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump, or fall causes a hip to fracture or a vertebra to collapse. Collapsed vertebrae may initially be felt or seen in the form of severe back pain, loss of height, or spinal deformities such as kyphosis (severely stooped posture).
Following a comprehensive medical assessment, your doctor may recommend that you have your bone mass measured. A bone mineral density (BMD) test is the best way to determine your bone health. BMD tests can identify osteoporosis, determine your risk for fractures (broken bones), and measure your response to osteoporosis treatment. The most widely recognized BMD test is a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, or DXA test.
It is painless—a bit like having an x-ray, but with much less exposure to radiation. It can measure bone density at your hip and spine. BMD tests can:
Detect low bone density before a fracture occurs.
Confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis if you already have one or more fractures.
Predict your chances of fracturing in the future.
Determine your rate of bone loss, and monitor the effects of treatment if the test is conducted at intervals of a year or more.