Bone Density Testing (DEXA Scan)
As our bodies age we naturally lose bone mass. When the rate of bone loss is too high and there is substantial bone weakening, this condition is referred to as Osteoporosis. The rate of loss is different between individuals but there are definite trends in mineral bone loss. At risk are white, thin females who smoke and consume alcohol. Lowest risk is found in African American Males. In women the risk increases after menopause with decrease in Estrogen levels. Increased intake of Calcium and vitamin D may slow down the process but does not reverse it. New drugs have been introduced that reverses this process but very slowly over many years.
Several methods are available to measure bone density to evaluate risk of fractures. Currently the best method available is the DEXA Scan (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry). It measures the density of vertebral bodies within the spine. The results are compared to healthy young individuals.
The exam is painless and lasts approximately 10 minutes with minimal radiation exposure. After interpretation of the study steps can be taken to reduce the risk of a fracture.
Medications are now available to treat this condition. Fosomax is a drug introduced into the market to reverse the bone loss that is encountered with aging. This drug decreases the natural remodeling of bone and decreases the resorption of bone. Even though clinical studies show that the drug enhances bone mineral density, it may make bones more brittle since old bone remain without remodeling to produce new bone which occurs in normal conditions. Consult with your physician to learn if this medication is right for you. Alternative to Fosomax is Calcium and Vitamin D supplementation. This combination of medication does not increase bone mineral density but may slow down the resorption. In order to avoid osteoporosis, women at risk need to begin supplementation before the age of 30.