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What Is Bone Mineral Density Testing?

The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that 10 million people in the U.S. have osteoporosis and nearly 34 million more have osteopenia, which puts them at greater risk for osteoporosis.

Bone mineral density(BMD) is related to bone strength. BMD testing is used to diagnose osteoporosis. BMD is measured with a test called a DXA scan. By measuring BMD, doctors can predict the risk of having a bone fracture.

Recommended Related to Osteoporosis

Male Osteoporosis: Bone Mass Matters

Real men get osteoporosis, too. As many as 2 million American men already have osteoporosis, the bone thinning that makes bones brittle and porous and at likely to fracture. Twelve million men are at risk, and may have early signs of bone loss and low bone density, called osteopenia. But given that four times as many women have osteoporosis, men are less likely to end up with thin bones than women. Why this lower risk? "Women live longer, so they're more likely to get osteoporosis," says Paul...

Read the Male Osteoporosis: Bone Mass Matters article > >

A bone density scan, or test, should not be confused with a bone scan, which is used to find tumors, cancer, fractures, and infections in the bone.

What Do Bone Mineral Density Test Results Mean?

  • Normal: Bones have a density that is healthy.
  • Low bone mass (medically termed osteopenia): Bones show the beginning of bone loss, but not enough to be osteoporosis.
  • Osteoporosis: Bones are weak and porous, and more likely to break.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Trina Pagano, MD on October 24, 2014
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