Osteoporosis can be effectively treated if it is detected before significant bone loss has occurred. A medical workup to diagnose osteoporosis will include a complete medical history, x rays, and urine and blood tests. The doctor may also order a bone mineral density test. This test can identify osteoporosis, determine your risk for fractures (broken bones), and measure your response to osteoporosis treatment. The most widely recognized BMD test is called a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, or DXA test. It is painless a bit like having an x ray, but with much less exposure to radiation. It can measure bone density at your hip and spine.
It is increasingly common for women to be diagnosed with osteoporosis or low bone mass using a BMD test, often at midlife when doctors begin to watch for signs of bone loss. In men, however, the diagnosis is often not made until a fracture occurs or a man complains of back pain and sees his doctor. This makes it especially important for men to inform their doctors about risk factors for developing osteoporosis, loss of height or change in posture, a fracture, or sudden back pain.
Some doctors may be unsure how to interpret the results of a BMD test in men, because it is not known whether the World Health Organization guidelines used to diagnose osteoporosis or low bone mass in women are also appropriate for men. Although controversial, the International Society for Clinical Densitometry recommends using separate guidelines when interpreting BMD test results in men.