Tests and Diagnosis

Doctors diagnose osteoporosis using a bone density test, also known as a bone mass measurement test. Postmenopausal women and men over 50 who have recently broken a bone should talk to a healthcare provider about getting a bone density test.

This exam is performed using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). The test is painless and easy, but there are a few things you’ll need to do—and not do—beforehand:

  • Stop taking calcium supplements two days prior to the DEXA scan, as increased levels can cause inaccurate measurements.
  • Do not take any osteoporosis medication on the day of the test.
  • Wait two weeks or more for the scan if you are also undergoing a barium enema or other radiological test using contrast material.
  • Inform the technician if you are right or left-handed since scanning of the hip is done on the non-dominant side.
  • On the day of the scan, wear loose-fitting clothes without metal zippers.
  • Follow any other instructions given to you by the doctor or office staff.

Patients who are diagnosed with osteoporosis often have additional blood tests and urine tests to help doctors look for markers of bone health. Test results may also determine if an underlying condition or vitamin deficiency is responsible for the bone loss and help doctors monitor how well different osteoporosis treatments are working.

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