Bone Density Tests and Osteoporosis in Women

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Hi, Mia here! Just after I got pregnant with my first child, my husband and I decided to spend a few months abroad. While it was a great experience, I made the mistake of not learning the language before I left. Getting antenatal care was difficult when I couldn't communicate with the doctors, so I had to start learning things for myself. I enjoyed it so much, I decided to continue even when I got back home to Australia. This blog is filled with everything I've discovered over the years about managing your own health (and your family's health!) with and without medical intervention.


Bone Density Tests and Osteoporosis in Women

9 November 2021
 Categories: , Blog

If you are a woman, then you may be at higher risk for osteoporosis. Bone density tests can be useful in the early detection of the condition, and early detection is important. Keep reading to learn more about bone density tests for women and who is at risk for osteoporosis.

Why are women at higher risk for osteoporosis?

Women are at higher risk for osteoporosis for two reasons. For one, women tend to have smaller and thinner bones than men. They also tend to have less bone material. Another reason why women are at higher risk is they go through hormone changes as they age. When you are young, your oestrogen protects you from bone loss. However, as you get older, you produce less oestrogen. When oestrogen levels drop, your bone density can decrease.

Who has a higher risk of osteoporosis?

While being an older female puts you at risk, you may have additional risk factors, including:

  • Having light skin
  • Being unable to digest dairy
  • Going through menopause before age 45
  • Experiencing amenorrhea for more than six months
  • Having a hysterectomy before age 45
  • Having a family history of osteoporosis
  • Having adrenal and thyroid issues

If you are at a higher than normal risk for osteoporosis, your doctor may recommend a bone density test at any age.

What does a bone density test do?

The doctor usually uses two types of machines for a bone density test: DXA and QCT scans. Both check the spine, but the DXA scan also checks other areas of the body. Your doctor may use other machines to check your extremities and your wrists. They will focus on bones that frequently break due to osteoporosis. The scan uses a small amount of radiation similar to an X-ray.

What happens if one has low bone density?

Once the doctor finishes the tests, you will receive a score. -1 and better means you have good bone density. Anything lower than a -1 means you are either at risk or already have osteoporosis. A score lower than -2.5 indicates you likely have the condition.

Treatment depends on the severity of the issue. If you have a mild case, vitamin D and calcium supplements may help. More severe cases may benefit from medications to improve calcium in the bones. Some doctors prescribe hormone replacement, but this is unusual and risky.

While no cure exists for osteoporosis, you and your doctor can work together to slow bone loss and improve bone density. A bone density screening is just one tool in keeping your bones healthy. If you are a woman in need of an examination, contact a women's health clinic for help.