A diagnosis of
osteoporosis is based on your
medical history, a physical exam, and a test to
measure your bone thickness (density). During a physical exam, your
- Measure your height and compare the results
with past measurements.
- Examine your body for evidence of previous
broken bones, such as changes in the shape of your long bones and
spine . See a picture of a
compression fracture of the spine .
bone mineral density test measures the mineral density
(such as calcium) in your bones using a special X-ray or computed tomography (CT)
scan. From this information, your doctor can estimate the
strength of your bones. See a picture of a
bone mineral density test .
Routine urine and blood tests can
rule out other
medical conditions, such as
Cushing's syndrome, that can cause bone loss. In men,
blood tests to measure
testosterone levels can see whether low levels are
causing bone loss.
If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis,
you may need to follow up regularly with your doctor to monitor your
If you or your doctor thinks you may be at risk
for osteoporosis, you may have a screening test to check your bone
thickness. A screening test may be advisable if you have:
fracture in a minor injury that may have been caused
- Another medical condition that is known to cause
- Risk factors for or symptoms that
United States Preventive Services Task Force
(USPSTF) recommends that all women age 65 and older routinely have a
bone mineral density test to screen for osteoporosis.
If you are at increased risk for fractures caused by osteoporosis, routine
screening should start sooner.4 USPSTF recommends that you and your doctor check your fracture risk using a tool such as FRAX to help decide whether you should be screened for osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and when to start bone mineral density screening.
The FRAX tool was developed by the World Health Organization to help predict your risk of having a fracture related to osteoporosis in the next 10 years. You can use this tool. Go to the website at www.sheffield.ac.uk/FRAX, and click on Calculation Tool. If you have had a bone mineral density test (BMD) on your hip, you can type in your score. If you have not had that test, you can leave the score blank.
experts recommend that the decision to screen younger women be made
on an individual basis, depending on the risk for osteoporosis and
whether the test results will help with treatment decisions. For help to decide
whether you should be tested for osteoporosis, see:
- Osteoporosis: Should I Have a Dual X-Ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) Test?
Experts suggest that older men talk to their doctors about osteoporosis and have bone mineral density tests done if they are at risk.5
Ultrasound is sometimes offered at events such as health fairs as a quick screening for osteoporosis. Ultrasound by itself is not a reliable test for diagnosing osteoporosis. But if results of an ultrasound screening find low bone density, your doctor can help you decide whether you should have a bone mineral density test.