What You Should Know About Measuring Bone Density
Knowing how healthy your bones are is an important part of managing arthritis. When you have rheumatoid arthritis, your risk of developing osteoporosis increases. A bone mineral density test involves measuring your bones to show you whether or not you have osteoporosis and determines your risk of fractures. Keep reading to find out more about this type of test.
How is a Bone Density Test Done?
One of the most common ways to test bone density is by using a central DXA test. This test, known as a central dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry test, is similar to having a regular X-ray taken. This test is generally done on your hip or spine to measure the amount of calcium and other minerals that are in your bones. However, you can also have peripheral tests done to measure your bone density in your finger, wrist, lower arm or heel.
Bone Density Test Results
When you have a bone density test done, your results are known as a T-score and Z-score. A T-score compares the bone density you have to what is considered a normal density for someone who is young, healthy and the same sex as you. Having a T-score that is -1 or higher means that you have normal bone density. T-scores that range from -1 to -2.5 indicate that you have osteopenia, which is a condition that can end up leading to osteoporosis. T-scores that are -2.5 or below mean that you have osteoporosis.
The Z-score that you get on this test compares your bone density to that of someone who is the same weight, sex, age and ethnicity or race as you. Having a Z-score that is considerably lower or higher might indicate that you have an underlying health condition that is contributing to bone loss. In some cases, treating this underlying condition can help slow or prevent bone loss.
How to Prepare for a Bone Density Test
Before your bone density test, you should do the following:
- You normally do not have to fast or avoid eating certain foods before having a bone density test done. However, you should avoid taking any calcium supplements for 24 hours or more before your test.
- Dress in clothes that are loose-fitting, which makes the scanning process easier. Don’t wear clothes with metal on them, and keep in mind that you’ll be asked to remove metal items, such as jewelry or eyeglasses.
- Let your doctor know if you’ve had any testing that involved the use of a contrast material or barium since this can affect your bone density test.
Talk to your doctor about how specialized rheumatology care can help you get back to doing your favorite activities. If you have arthritis, osteoporosis, or are post-menopausal and have not had a bone density test, please talk to your doctor about your options. We can help with all your rheumatology needs.