After reviewing data, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends osteoporosis screening for all women 65 and older. Women who are younger than 65 and have been through menopause also should be screened because they face a higher risk for the bone disease.
Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become weak and can break or fracture more easily. These fractures, also called osteoporotic or fragility fractures, can result from a minor fall or injury that typically would not cause a break in normal, healthy bones. These fractures can lead to serious disability, loss of independence, decreased quality of life, and, in some cases, even death.
“Without screening, most women won’t know that they have osteoporosis until they have a fracture. Screening and treatment can help prevent these fractures,” said Task Force member Chien-Wen Tseng, M.D. “Based on the evidence, we recommend screening for women over the age of 65 and younger women who have been through menopause and are at increased risk for osteoporosis.”
The Task Force found that there is not enough evidence to determine if men should be screened for osteoporosis to prevent fractures.
“While both men and women can develop osteoporosis, there’s less evidence to know whether screening and current treatments prevent fractures in men without a history of fractures. More studies are needed that look at how well treatments work in men who have not had a fracture,” says Task Force Vce Vhair Alex H. Krist, M.D.
These final recommendations apply to older adults who do not have a history of prior fragility fractures or health conditions that could lead to weakened bones.
Many women are unaware they have osteoporosis until they fracture a bone. Fractures are most common in the hip, wrist and spine. If you have osteoporosis in your spine, you can fracture your vertebrae doing normal things likes climbing stairs, lifting objects or bending forward.
Fractures in the vertebrae can cause it to collapse and bend forward. If this happens, you may get any or all of these symptoms:
- Sloping shoulders
- Curve in the back
- Height loss
- Back pain
- Hunched posture
To diagnose osteoporosis, your orthopaedic specialist will do a bone density test to see how strong or weak your bones are. A common test is a central dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA). A DXA is a special type of x-ray of your bones. This test uses a very low amount of radiation.
Your doctor may also use other screening tools to predict your risk of having low bone density or breaking a bone.
Sources: United States Preventive Services Task Force, Office on Women’s Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.