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.
It is important to identify the symptoms of spinal compression fractures and notify your doctor right away. Sudden, severe back pain, especially in older women, may signal a spinal compression fracture or another serious condition.
Anyone with significant back pain -- especially a woman who is near or over age 50 -- should see a doctor. Most compression fractures in women over 50 are due to osteoporosis and treatment can help reduce the chance of further compression fractures.
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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