Osteoporosis used to be diagnosed only after a bone fracture. For many people, that diagnosis came too late to be of much use. Today it can be detected earlier with a bone mineral density [BMD] test. This test can also provide information regarding your risk of suffering a fracture and can help you and your doctor monitor your progress if your taking bone-building medications.
BMD is the measurement of a bone’s mineral content. In general, the lower your bone density, the higher your risk for fracture. Usually, BMD is measured by calculating the amount of mineralized tissue in grams per square centimeter in the area scanned [for example, the hip, spine, or heel]. That number, like the figure that represents cholesterol level, represents a place on a spectrum created from the BMD measurements of people of all ages.
Currently, screenings for osteoporosis are not routinely given to everyone; instead they are done on an individual basis. Experts are still debating who should receive bone density screening, and it remains unclear whether the benefits of tests such as dual energy x-ray absorptiometry [ DXA] justify the cost of testing everyone. It’s best to talk to your doctor about whether testing is right for you. It is important to note that coverage varies among insurance plans some plans may refuse to pay for DXA testing. Thus, unless you’re willing to foot the bill yourself, it pays to check with your plan first.
Source: Everyday Health, 11/27/2008