Your family doctor may suggest bone density testing because screening for osteoporosis is recommended for all women by age 65. Some guidelines also recommend screening men by age 70, especially if they have health issues likely to cause osteoporosis.
If the bone density test is very abnormal or you have other complex health issues, such as kidney dysfunction, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in metabolic disorders (endocrinologist) or a doctor who specializes in diseases of the joints, muscles or bones (rheumatologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you've noticed, though it's possible you may not have any.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins and supplements that you're currently taking or have taken in the past. It's especially helpful if you record the type and dose of calcium and vitamin D supplements, because many different preparations are available. If you're not sure what information your doctor might need, take the bottles with you.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For osteoporosis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- Do I need to be screened for osteoporosis?
- What kinds of tests do I need to confirm the diagnosis?
- What treatments are available, and which do you recommend?
- What types of side effects can I expect from treatment?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing me?
- Are there any alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there any activity restrictions that I need to follow?
- Do I need to make changes in my diet?
- Do I need to take supplements?
- Is there a physical therapy program that would benefit me?
- What can I do to prevent falls?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
Dec. 13, 2014
- Have you experienced any fractures or broken bones?
- Have you noticed a loss of height?
- How is your diet, especially dairy intake? Do you think you get enough calcium? Vitamin D?
- Do you take any vitamins or supplements?
- How often do you exercise?
- Did you exercise more or less in the past?
- Does either of your parents have osteoporosis?
- Has anyone in your family had bone fractures, especially hip fractures?
- Have you ever had stomach or intestinal surgery?
- Do you have chronic diarrhea?
- Have you taken corticosteroid medications (prednisone, cortisone) as pills, injections, suppositories or creams?
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- Kennel KA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 20, 2014.
- Rosen HN. The use of bisphosphonates in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 10, 2014.
- Finkelstein JS. Treatment of osteoporosis in men. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 10, 2014.
- Rosen CJ. Parathyroid hormone therapy for osteoporosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 10, 2014.
- Rosen HN. Denosumab for osteoporosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 10, 2014.
- Calcium. Office of Dietary Supplements. National Institutes of Health. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional. Accessed Nov. 10, 2014.
- Ask Mayo Expert. Vitamin D deficiency. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
- Vitamin D. Office of Dietary Supplements. National Institutes of Health. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional. Accessed Nov. 10, 2014.
- Rohren CH (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 20, 2014.
- Clinician's guide to prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. National Osteoporosis Foundation. http://nof.org/hcp/resources/913. Accessed Nov. 20, 2014.
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for osteoporosis: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2011;154:356.