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Osteoporosis diagnosis

Osteoporosis is often diagnosed after the weakening of the bones has led to a fracture.

If you are at high risk of osteoporosis your doctor may refer you for a bone density test.

A bone density test can help diagnose osteoporosis. It is a short, painless scan that measures the density (strength) of your bones, usually at the hip and spine. The result from this test is called a 'T-score'.

It measures your bone mineral density (BMD) and compares it to the bone density of a healthy young adult and someone who is of the same age and sex as you.

A T-score of:

  • above -1 is normal 
  • between -1 and -2.5 is classed as 'osteopenia' (where bone density is lower than average but not low enough to be classed as 'osteoporosis')
  • below -2.5 is classed as 'osteoporosis'

A bone density test can help diagnose osteoporosis, but your BMD result is not the only factor that determines your risk of fracturing a bone.

Your doctor will also consider your age, sex and any previous injuries before deciding whether you need treatment for osteoporosis.

Source: NHS Choices, UK (Diagnosing osteoporosis), Osteoporosis Australia (Diagnosing osteoporosis)

Last reviewed: June 2015

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