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Osteoporosis is often diagnosed after weakened bones have led to a fracture.
If you're at risk of developing osteoporosis, your GP may refer you for a bone mineral density scan, known as a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA, or DXA)Â scan.
Normal X-raysÂ are a useful way of identifying fractures, but they aren't a reliable method of measuring bone density.
AÂ DEXA scanÂ can be used to help diagnose osteoporosis. It's a quick, safeÂ and painless procedure that usually takes aboutÂ five minutes, depending on the part of the body being scanned.
The scan measures your bone mineral densityÂ and comparesÂ it to the bone mineral densityÂ of a healthy young adult and someone who's the same age and sex as you.
The difference between the density of your bones and that of a healthy young adult isÂ calculated as a standard deviation (SD) and is calledÂ a T score.
Standard deviation is a measure of variability based on an average or expected value. A T score of:
AlthoughÂ aÂ bone density scan can helpÂ diagnose osteoporosis, yourÂ bone mineral density result isn'tÂ the only factor that determines your risk of fracturing a bone.
Your age, sex andÂ any previousÂ injuries will need to be taken into consideration before deciding whether you need treatment for osteoporosis.
Your doctor can help you take positive steps to improve your bone health. If you needÂ treatment, they can also suggestÂ the safest and most effective treatmentÂ planÂ for you.Â
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