While not everyone experiences osteoporosis, some people are more prone to having it than others. If you are a woman, age 65 or older, use medications that cause osteoporosis, have been through menopause, have a family history of osteoporosis, or have certain types of osteoporosis-linked diseases (e.g. kidney disease or Type 1 diabetes), it's not a bad idea to see your family physician.
There is not a particular type of doctor who specializes in osteoporosis, although you may receive care from endocrinologists, geriatricians, internists, and rheumatologists. Your doctor will inquire about your family history, any recent bone fractures or breaks, any back or hip pain, and your general medical history. A physical examination may also include height measurement (to check for decreased height); an analysis of spinal posture; and test for back pain (is pain relieved by sitting). You doctor might also request a bone mineral density test(s) for osteoporosis.
Bone mineral density tests
One or several bone density tests may be performed in order to diagnose osteoporosis. These tests are painless, and require special medical equipment. Bone tests can inform doctors about whether bone density is less than it should be, and monitor bone loss over the span of one year or several years. Bone mineral density tests can also confirm if you are experiencing osteoporosis in conjunction with a fracture or broken bone. With this information, you and your doctor can estimate the likelihood of future fractures or breaking a bone.
Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry - This test uses an X-Ray, and is quick and highly accurate. It measures your bone density within 1 or 2% precision, and is widely preferred by doctors due to its accuracy.
Dual photon absorptiometry - This test uses a photon beam to measure bone density, although it is less useful to determine bone density changes throughout a patient's life.
Peripheral bone density testing - These tests bring osteoporosis testing to an audience that might not otherwise receive it. These portable devices are portable, but only test one area of the body. Since bone density levels can be different throughout the body, there is a chance of missing osteoporosis.
Quantitative computerized tomography (CT scan) - Although more expensive than a Dual energy X-Ray absorptionmetry procedure, this test produces high resolution, 3-D images of your bones. Additionally, it allows doctors to focus on the desired area of interest by leaving out images of surrounding tissue.
While analyzing your bone mineral density, your doctor may uncover that you have osteopenia, which means that your bones are experiencing low levels of bone loss. This is not osteoporosis, but may indicate that you are susceptible to developing osteoporosis. Your doctor may order similar tests as those above to determine if you have osteopenia.
If your doctor determines that you are experiencing osteoporosis based on the results of bone mineral density tests, then you can begin treatment. Osteoporosis cannot be cured, but effective treatment can increase quality of life and prevent injury. For information on treatment options, read about treatment for osteoporosis in our Treating Osteoporosis section now.