How is Osteoporosis Diagnosed?

Symptoms of osteoporosis

There are usually no signs and symptoms of osteoporosis, until a bone fracture (break) occurs.

That’s why it’s important to know if you are at risk of developing osteoporosis. You can check a list of risk factors here. If you are concerned about your risk, you should visit your general practitioner (doctor).

If you have good bone density, usually a minor fall would not result in a fracture. If you get a fracture from a simple fall, this might indicate a problem with your bone density that needs investigation.

What will the doctor do?

The doctor will usually ask questions about medical and family history, and do a physical examination.

This may involve the doctor measuring your height. Losing 3cm (more than 1 inch) in height can be a signal that you’ve had a ‘crush’ fracture in your spine. These fractures are sometimes painless, so they can go unnoticed).

You may be sent for specific tests, such as x-rays or bone mineral density scans.

X-rays help to check if there are any bone fractures that have occurred.

Bone mineral density scans measure the density/strength of your bones in comparison to the average bone density of a young adult of the same gender and ethnicity. The most reliable way to measure bone density is the dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan, which is widely available around Australia, with a doctor’s referral.

You may see advertisements for other types of bone density testing, called Heel Ultrasounds. Heel Ultrasound is not the recommended standard test to measure your bone strength and predict your risk of fracture.

For more information about diagnosing osteoporosis call our free Helpline on 1800 011 041 and speak to one of our health educators.