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Diagnosis of Osteoporosis

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Diagnosis of Osteoporosis

Bone density tests can find osteoporosis. The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may suspect osteoporosis or think a person is at high risk for it. If so, tests may include:

Bone Mineral Density Tests

Bone mineral density (BMD) measures bone mass. This is the amount of bone mineral in the bones. This measure is then compared to a healthy 30 year old adult. It may also be compared to the normal bone mass of someone of the same age. This is called a Z score. BMD results show if bone density is in a normal range or not.

The doctor will consider test results and other things that raise the risk. If needed, a plan to prevent or treat the disease is made.

The types of BMD test used depends on the reason it is needed.

Diagnostic tests to measure bone density are:

If these tests are not available, screening tests can be used. But, they should not be used to make a diagnosis or to follow the course of treatment.

Screening tests to measure bone density are:

  • Central DXA or peripheral DXA—measures at outer sites such as wrist, heel, or finger
  • Quantitative ultrasound (QUS)—sound waves measure the heel, shinbone, and kneecap
  • Central or peripheral QCT—measures at the lower arm, wrist, finger or heel

Other Tests

Blood and urine tests —To test levels of calcium and vitamin D. Other substances are made when bone is formed or broken down. These can also be tested. The results can tell how fast the body is breaking down the bone.

Bone biopsy—Done in certain cases to check for other causes of bone disease.


  • Bone density exam/testing. National Osteoporosis Foundation website. Available at: https://www.nof.org/patients/diagnosis-information/bone-density-examtesting.
  • Evaluation of osteoporosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/evaluation/evaluation-of-osteoporosis.
  • Osteoporosis causes and risk factors. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/osteoporosis-causes-and-risk-factors.
  • Osteoporosis. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/osteoporosis.
  • Osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/osteoporosis-in-postmenopausal-women.
  • Osteoporosis overview. NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center website. Available at: https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/overview.


  • April Scott, NP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.