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This information was reviewed and approved by Mehrnaz Maleki Fischbach, MD (7/1/2019).

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

The first step in diagnosing osteoporosis is a good evaluation. Your health care provider will complete a detailed medical history and physical exam. Your health care provider may ask questions to assess your risk of developing osteoporosis. This may include a history of fragility fractures. These are fractures that occur without a major trauma.

Part of an evaluation may also include a specialized X-ray test called bone densitometry (DEXA), or bone density test, which can:

  • Detect osteopenia or osteoporosis before a fracture occurs

  • Predict your chances of fractures in the future

  • Determine your rate of bone loss and/or monitor the effects of treatment

A bone density test is a type of X-ray. During the test, images are taken of your lower back (spine), hip and forearm. A bone density test will show how dense these bones are. When a person has osteoporosis, the bone is not as dense, and therefore weaker than it should be. A bone density test can help determine a diagnosis early, before a person has a bone fracture and can help determine the effects of treatment.

During the bone density test you will lie on an imaging table. The bone density machine will scan your lower back, hip and forearm. You/your child will need to hold still during each scan.

Your doctor also may order a urine test to detect calcium loss or markers of bone resorption (the loss of bone through deterioration).


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