Isabel Johnson, age 64 years old, picked up a brochure on
osteoporosis at her local pharmacy. What she read about the “silent disease”
concerned her. She learned that she had several of the risk factors: she had
gone through menopause at an early age, and her mother had suffered several
fractures in her seventies and eighties.
Isabel called her neighbor, a registered nurse, who
suggested that she discuss her concerns with a doctor. Isabel wondered how to
find a doctor with expertise in osteoporosis.
Reality: Fractures in individuals over the age of 50 can be the first sign of weak bones from osteoporosis or low bone mass. Each year, 1.5 million older Americans suffer a bone fracture due to osteoporosis. Half of all women over 50, and a quarter of all men, will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture sometime in their remaining life. And the problem is increasing: the surgeon general estimates that by 2020, half of all Americans over 50 will be at risk for bone fractures from osteoporosis and...
For many people, finding a doctor who is knowledgeable about
osteoporosis can be difficult. There is no physician specialty dedicated solely
to osteoporosis, nor is there a certification program for health professionals
who treat the disease. A variety of medical specialists treat people with
osteoporosis, including internists, gynecologists, family physicians,
endocrinologists, rheumatologists, physiatrists, orthopaedists, and
There are a number of ways to find a doctor who treats
osteoporosis patients. If you have a primary care physician or a family doctor,
discuss your concerns with him or her. Your doctor may treat the disease or be
able to refer you to an osteoporosis specialist.
If you are enrolled in an HMO or managed care health plan,
consult your assigned physician about osteoporosis. This doctor should be able
to give you an appropriate referral.
If you do not have a personal physician or your doctor cannot
help, you should contact your nearest university hospital or academic health
center and ask for the department that cares for patients with osteoporosis.
The department will vary from institution to institution. For example, in some
facilities, the department of endocrinology or metabolic bone disease treats
osteoporosis patients. In other medical centers, the appropriate department may
be rheumatology, orthopedics, or gynecology. Some hospitals have a separate
osteoporosis program or women’s clinic that treats osteoporosis patients.
Once you have identified a doctor, you may wish to ask whether
the physician has specialized training in osteoporosis, how much of the
practice is dedicated to osteoporosis, and whether he or she uses bone mass
Your own primary care doctor – whether an internist,
orthopaedist, or gynecologist – is often the best person to treat you because
she or he knows your medical history, your lifestyle, and your special
Medical Specialists Who Treat Osteoporosis
After an initial assessment, it may be necessary to see an
endocrinologist, a rheumatologist, or another specialist to exclude the
possibility of an underlying disease that may contribute to osteoporosis:
Endocrinologists treat the endocrine system,
which comprises the glands and hormones that help control the body’s metabolic
activity. In addition to osteoporosis, endocrinologists also treat diabetes and
diseases of the thyroid and pituitary glands.
Rheumatologists diagnose and treat diseases of
the joints, muscles, bones, and tendons, including arthritis and collagen