What to Expect from an Osteoporosis Screening

Did you know that around the world, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men are at risk of an osteoporotic fracture? Osteoporosis is a common disease and more closer to home, 1.2 million Australians are estimated to have it and a further 6.3 million have low bone density.

As we get older our bones become brittle and without the right checks and treatment, it can lead to a range of additional health challenges. Here is what to expect from an osteoporosis screening, also known as a bone density test, and why you should have one.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose minerals, such as calcium, faster than the body can replace them, leading to a loss of bone thickness (bone mass or density). As a result, bones become thinner and less dense so that even a minor bump or fall can result in a serious fracture (break).

Any bone can be affected by osteoporosis but the common sites are the hip, spine and wrist. It is most common in adults over 50 years, with women more at risk than men due to menopause. Therefore, you should get tested if you fall into the following age brackets:

  1. Women over 65
  2. Men over 70
  3. Anyone over 50 who have one or more of the following risk factors:

Risk factors

  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Use of corticosteroids used for asthma & arthritis
  • Low hormone levels or early menopause in women
  • Low testosterone levels in men
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Conditions leading to malabsorption disorders such as coeliac disease & inflammatory bowel disease
  • Chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic liver & kidney disease
  • Some medication used to treat breast cancer, prostate cancer, epilepsy & depression
  • Recurrent falls
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Minimal physical activity & exercise
  • Low body weight

Why are osteoporosis screenings so important?

Ominously labelled the ‘silent disease’ osteoporosis has no apparent symptoms. This means people are often not aware they have it until they suffer their first fracture and sometimes it is too far along in the disease for treatments to be properly effective. Additionally, the risk of breaks rises with each new fracture, known as the ‘cascade effect’, making it critical to catch it in time as early detection allows for a far better treatment program.

The only way to determine the onset of the condition is to have regular bone density tests performed by a specialist. The test itself is cheap and harmless, but detecting the disease early can make a huge different to your quality of life in your senior years.

What is a bone density test?

An osteoporosis screening, also known as a bone density test, is a non-evasive procedure that measures the thickness of your bones (usually at the hip or spine) and helps understand if you are at risk of brittle bones and loss of tissue. It is a simple scan that takes approximately 5-15 minutes and involves lying on a padded table while the arm of the machine passes over your body.

The results of the test helps your doctor to understand if your bones are in the range of normal, low bone density (osteopenia) or osteoporosis. Finding out this information means you and your doctor can take action to keep your bones strong, slow bone loss and reduce the risk of breaks.

How St John Medical can help

At St John Medical, we offer comprehensive osteoporosis screening and treatment options. Using our state-of-the-art technology at our fully equipped clinic, our specialist doctors can make a professional osteoporosis diagnosis.

Once diagnosed, the main aim is to prevent future fractures through treatment. Our team of qualified doctors are always on hand to advise you accordingly and assist with treatment. They will work with you to come up with the best course of action depending on your unique situation.

Treatment involves medication you can take to balance the constant breakdown and formation of new bone. Modifying your lifestyle with the right nutrition and exercise can also be hugely beneficial, and making sure you get the right amount of calcium and vitamin D to build strong, dense bones is also important.

So stay on top of your health and make a booking today for an osteoporosis screening at St John Medical’s osteoporosis clinic. Remember, one quick and painless test could save you a lifetime of health challenges.

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