Digitalyl measuring of the bone density
Measuring bone density is one of the most important methods for clearly diagnosing possible osteoporosis in the case of certain complaints. Measuring bone density involves determining the bone’s mineral content, which in turn provides information about the state of health of the entire skeleton. In my surgery, I use the so called DEXA method, which although more extensive is much more reliable and informative than many other methods (which is why it is now a WHO standard). As with many other orthopaedic diagnostic methods, the use of X-rays is crucial. An ultrafine X-ray passes through the bone and is absorbed in varying degrees – depending on bone density. The radiation that exits the bone is measured digitally and the results are compared with appropriate benchmarks (using software) which affords a more precise diagnosis.
If the mineral content is not within the normal range we usually distinguish two clinical syndromes: a mere reduction of the mineral content (osteopenia), or a pathogenic reduction of the mineral content (osteoporosis). With osteoporosis, the bone loses substance and calcium, leading to the entire skeleton’s becoming increasingly unstable.
Osteoporosis may be caused by genetic factors, another disease, or by the patient’s way of life. The disease generally develops over a period of years without manifesting any symptoms. Frequently patients initially suffer from non-specific back pain but may then suffer a bone fracture due to a minor accident that would normally have any such consequences.
Although often considered a disease of older women, osteoporosis is in fact a widespread health problem; every 3rd women and every 50th man over 50 is affected. A lack of oestrogen in women, reduced calcium absorption, lack of exercise, regular use of cortisone, smoking as well as regular or excessive consumption of alcohol all increase the risk of osteoporosis; people at a higher risk should therefore have their bone density measured. I also recommend that this be done for all women over 65 (in line with international guidelines), as well as on younger women who have had their menopause or are subject to one or more of the risk factors above.