Osteoporosis Screening & Treatment in Pittsburgh
Osteoporosis is a condition that reduces bone strength and puts individuals at greater risk of breaking or fracturing a bone. This condition most frequently affects women, as one in four women over the age of 65 will be diagnosed.
Symptoms of osteoporosis are virtually non-existent, which is why many individuals may not be aware or affected by it until they have already suffered a broken bone. For this reason, routine osteoporosis screenings are incredibly important, especially for those with high-risk factors.
Board-certified rheumatologist Dr. Ghassan Alayli specializes in the screening and treatment of osteoporosis and other rheumatic conditions at Weirton Medical Center. Our rheumatologist will discuss your symptoms and discover what treatment options will work best for you. To visit our area rheumatology clinic, please call (304) 797-6000 today.
Osteoporosis Risk Factors
The following are influential factors that can increase a person’s likelihood to develop osteoporosis:
- Gender: Women are far more likely to be affected by osteoporosis than men. In general, women’s bones are smaller and are more vulnerable to degeneration due to hormonal changes that occur after menopause.
- Age: Bones naturally become thinner as we age. When women reach menopause, they may rapidly lose bone in the first four to eight years of menopause. For example, if a woman begins menopause at 50, the most dramatic loss of bone mass may occur between 51 and 58.
- Race: Due to differences in genetic make-up across all ethnicities, Caucasian and Asian women are more likely to be affected by osteoporosis than African-American or Hispanic women.
- Family history: Women with a family history of osteoporosis are at a significantly higher risk of developing osteoporosis during their lifetime.
DEXA Screening for Osteoporosis
Bone density is measured using a unique diagnostic test called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, or what is commonly known as a DEXA scan. This procedure measures the density of an individual's bones in areas of the body that are prone to breaks and fractures, such as the spine, hips, and forearms.
DEXA scans do not require any preparation. The patient will lie on an examination table while X-rays are used to scan specific areas of the body. The process is painless and only takes about ten minutes to complete.
Interpreting DEXA Results
In the majority of cases, the patient’s bone density will be compared to that of an average, healthy young adult. The results of this comparison is called a T-score, which will help Dr. Ghassan Alayli determine if the bone density is at a normal level, or if interventional treatment is necessary to prevent a future fracture. The following levels may be used to classify a person’s T-score:
- Normal T-score: Between +1 and -1
- Lower than average mass T-score: Between -1.1 and -2.4
- Osteoporosis: A score of -2.5 or less
How Often Should Scans be Performed?
Because of the need to expose patients to a limited dose of radiation in order to complete a DEXA scan, it is recommended that these tests only be completed a maximum of once every two years. Even with high-risk patients receiving treatment, our rheumatologists will monitor bone health using other examinations between DEXA scans.
Osteoporosis Treatment Options in Pittsburgh
The main goal of treatment will be to prevent fractures and breaks. In addition to recommending a proper diet that is rich in calcium, Dr. Ghassan Alayli may also prescribe supplemental medications. The following is not a list of all medication options, but simply those most frequently used:
- Bisphosphonates: This type of medication slows cell activity that is responsible for bone loss. Bisphosphonates are intended to maintain or even increase bone density.
- Parathyroid hormone: These kinds of hormone supplements are ideal for postmenopausal women who are at high risk for fractures.
- Estrogen agonists/antagonists: Typically used to treat postmenopausal women, these medications are not estrogen, but they have estrogen-like effects on the body. These effects can be very beneficial to replenish the body’s hormone levels that often drop off during the stages of menopause.
- Calcitonin: Meant for women who are at least five years into menopause, calcitonin helps to regulate calcium and bone metabolism.
Schedule a Consultation for Osteoporosis Screening and Treatment in Pittsburgh
Osteoporosis is a condition that should not be taken lightly. A broken bone can result in hospitalization, surgery, and many long-term effects. If you have concerns regarding your bone density and would like to schedule an appointment, please call Weirton Medical Center at (304) 797-6000 to meet with board-certified rheumatologist Dr. Ghassan Alayli.