There are no early osteopenia symptoms. As with osteoporosis, osteopenia often goes undiagnosed until a fracture occurs. People with certain risk factors, such as a small frame and a family history of the disease, should consider regular bone density scans beginning at age 60, before osteopenia symptoms (namely fractures) occur.
Just as with osteoporosis, there are no osteopenia symptoms in the early stages of the condition. As osteopenia progresses, the diagnosis changes, and a person is said to have osteoporosis.
Specialized tests called bone mineral density (BMD) tests can measure bone density in various sites of the body, thereby predicting those who are at greater risk of developing osteopenia and symptoms of osteoporosis. A bone density test can:
- Detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs
- Predict your chances of fracturing in the future
- Determine the rate of bone loss
- Monitor the effects of treatment if the test is conducted at intervals of a year or more.
The results of the DEXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) test are scored in comparison to the BMD of young, healthy individuals, resulting in a measurement called a T-score. If your T-score is -2.5 or lower, you are considered to have osteoporosis and therefore are at high risk for a fracture. T-scores between -1.0 and -2.5 are generally considered to show osteopenia.
The risk of fractures is generally lower in people with osteopenia when compared with those with osteoporosis, but if bone loss continues, the risk for fracture increases.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all women age 65 or older routinely have a bone mineral density test to screen for osteoporosis. If you have a higher risk for fractures, routine screening should begin at age 60.