What are Osteoporosis & Osteopenia?

Orthopaedic & Spine Center

What is osteoporosis? Osteoporosis is a bone disease that weakens our bones, making them thinner and easier to break. These fractures can lead to pain, stooped and poor posture, or significant trouble moving around.

What is osteopenia? Osteopenia is often referred to as the beginning stage of osteoporosis. It is weakening of the bones and reduced bone mass, but not quite to the severity of osteoporosis. If your bones continue to lose mass over time, osteopenia can turn into osteoporosis, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to! There are many healthy habits and lifestyle choices that can strengthen your bones, slow osteopenia and prevent osteoporosis.

How many people have osteoporosis? According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 54 million Americans have osteoporosis or osteopenia. Studies suggest that approximately one and in two women and one and four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

How is osteoporosis diagnosed? The gold standard for osteoporosis diagnosis is a combination of assessing risk factors and performing a full body Bone Mineral Density (BMD) assessment of the spine, lower back, and hips, which is done as a Dual-Energy X-ray absorptiometry, or DEXA scan. The DEXA is brief and painless. It requires the patient to lay flat for a few minutes on the DEXA scanner. You will be exposed to a very small amount of radiation. The results are given as a number called a T-Score. This score will tell you whether your BMD is above or below that of a young, healthy adult.