You should have a physical exam once a year. During this exam you can be given special tests that show the density of bone. Once you know you have osteoporosis, these tests also can help your doctor check rate of bone loss. Routine X-rays only show when much bone already has been lost. All women aged 65 years and older or who have had a bone fracture should be tested for bone mineral density. Testing also may be suggested for post menopausal women younger than 65 years who have one or more risk factor for osteoporosis.
Bone mineral density tests measure bone mass in the heel, spine, hip, hand or wrist. Measuring one area can give your doctor a sense of your bone density in other parts of your skeleton. The device used for the tests vary but all involve X-rays or beams from others energy sources. You may be asked to lie on your side or back for the X-ray, or you may sit and place your hand or foot into a cylinder. The tests can take as little as 1 minute or as much as 40 minutes. A bone density test can help detect problems before a fracture occurs.
A test also can help determine:
•Whether you have osteoporosis
•Your rate of bone loss
•Your risk of future fracture
Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry
Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is used most often to measure the bone density of your spine or hip. It is currently the most accurate test available.
During the test, you lie down for 3-10 minutes while an arm like device called an imager scans your body. With this test you are exposed to a very small amount of radiation-less than the amount in a normal chest X-ray.