Osteoporosis is a disease that affects millions of women past menopause. It can also affect men in the same age range. Like heart disease and high blood pressure, you will not know that you have osteoporosis until something out of the ordinary happens. There are no warning signs, and the deterioration of your bones does not hurt. Here is how most people discover that they have this disease, and what you can do about it after the fact.
The quickest way that most people discover that they have osteoporosis is when they break a bone. If you have never broken a bone in your life and then you suddenly break a bone in your 50's, it can be terrifying. In the emergency room, the doctors will take x-rays of the break, and discover that there are anomalies in your bones. It is then that the doctors will suspect osteoporosis is a contributing factor, and order a DXA (pronounced "dexa") scan. The DXA scan will confirm or deny the presence of osteoporosis, at which point the doctors will choose an alternate treatment plan to mend your broken bone.
During an Annual Physical
Everyone, from infants to senior citizens, should get an annual physical. Most children and teens do because their parents make sure of that. However, most adults do not. If you are an exception, and you go to your annual physical every year, you are likely to discover sooner that you have osteoporosis. Past a certain age, doctors order DXA scans for patients as part of the patients' annual physicals. Then you will know if you have osteoporosis or not.
Prior to Starting Arthritis Treatment
Many arthritis medications can weaken bones. If you have osteoporosis, most of these medications have to be avoided. This is when a rheumatologist will order a DXA scan to make sure your bones are healthy enough and strong enough to tolerate the medications. Any confirmation of the presence of osteoporosis and your rheumatologist will have to prescribe something else to help treat the pain and inflammation of your arthritis.
Things You Can Do That Will Help
Osteoporosis is not entirely reversible. There are medications that can slow it down and help you regain some bone density, but nothing can reverse it entirely. Some other things you can do that will help are plenty of weight-bearing exercises such as weightlifting and resistance training, and stopping smoking (if applicable).