Symptoms of Osteoporosis
Because there are no early osteoporosis symptoms, the disease is often not diagnosed until it is more advanced. Common symptoms of the advanced form of the disease include back pain, stooped posture, and fractures that occur with minor injuries. Bone density tests can help detect osteoporosis before symptoms occur.
People with osteoporosis often don't know they have it, simply because there are no osteoporosis symptoms in the early stages of the disease. That is what led specialists to label osteoporosis as the "silent disease."
As osteoporosis progresses, you may develop symptoms related to weakened bones, including:
- Back pain
- Loss of height and stooped posture
- A curved backbone (known as a dowager's hump)
- Fractures that may occur with a minor injury, especially of the hip, spine, or wrist.
Specialized tests called bone density tests can measure bone density in various sites of the body, thereby predicting those who are at greater risk of developing 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 most common bone mineral density test is dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). The results of the DEXA test are scored in comparison to the bone mineral density (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 (a reduction in bone mass that is not as severe as with osteoporosis). The risk of fractures is generally lower in people with osteopenia when compared to those with osteoporosis. However, if bone loss continues in a person with osteopenia, the risk for fracture increases, too.
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.