Everything You Need To Know About DEXA Scans

Osteoporosis / June 17, 2014

Osteoporosis occurs when there is a mismatch between osteoclast and osteoblast activity. The cells that lay new bone down are called osteoblasts, and the cells responsible for resorption of bone are called osteoclasts. When the osteoclasts outperform osteoblasts, it results in the thinning of bones and a greater risk for fracture. With osteoporosis showing no signs or symptoms, the gold standard for checking to see if your bones are healthy is through a DEXA scan. [1]

What Is A DEXA Scan And How Does It Work?

A bone mineral density (BMD) test is the standard way to determine your bone health. This test is able to identify your risk for fractures and identify osteoporosis. The most recognized BMD test is called a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA). [2]

There are two different types of DEXA machines. Central DEXAs are large full body machines that measure bone density in the centre of your skeleton, such as your spine and hips.

Peripheral DEXAs are smaller and more portable machines that are used to measure bone density on your peripheries such as wrist, heel or finger.

A DEXA machine uses low-energy X-rays and sends two different sources through the bone. The dual X-ray sources double the accuracy in measuring your bone density. The more dense your bone is, the less X-rays pass through to the detector.

Fortunately, the test is safe and painless, similar to an x-ray, but with much less exposure to radiation. In fact, out of all the imaging procedures, a DEXA scan ranks last in radiation exposure behind X-rays, mammograms and CT scans. [3]

How Do I Read My Results And What’s Next?

Your scan results will be given in the form of a T-score. The T-score compares your bone density with that of an average healthy adult of your gender.

Your scan results will also be compared to the bone density of people of your own age (the Z-score), however osteoporosis will be clinically diagnosed based on your T-score.

The scoring is a bit confusing so bare with me!

A T-score value greater than -1 means that your bone density is considered normal and you do not have osteoporosis. A T-score value between -1 and -2.5 indicates that you have osteopenia, a condition in which bone density is below normal and may lead to osteoporosis. [4]

A T-score of below -2.5 meanwhile indicates you have osteoporosis. If you are found to have either osteoporosis or osteopenia, your doctor will make a number of recommendations, which may include changes in lifestyle such as quitting smoking, calcium and vitamin D supplements, a weight bearing exercise routine. [4]

If your T score is approaching -2.5 then AlgaeCal Plus and Strontium Boost together can help to reverse extreme bone loss. It is the only formula that is clinically proven to actually increase your bone mineral density. [4]

After the reading of your results, your doctor will indicate when your next DEXA scan will be to assess changes in your bone health.

It is important that when you do your follow up DEXA scan that you get it done on the same machine. By using the same DEXA scanner you minimize errors across different machines, giving you an accurate reading.

Who Should Have A DXA Scan?

There are numerous risk factors that can increase your risk of osteoporosis. Below are a few for you to watch out for. If you say, “That’s me” to two or more on this list, it might be a good idea to ask your doctor about a DEXA scan.


  • Your gender: Women are 2x more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. Due to menopause, estrogen decreases sharply, which accelerates bone loss. For example, in the five to seven years following menopause, a woman can lose up to 20% of her bone density.
  • Age: In our lifetime, we increase bone mass from childhood to about our mid-thirties at which time we reach our peak bone mass. From then on, we lose about 1% of our bone every year.
  • Lack of Exercise: “If you don’t use them, you lose them.” Weight-bearing exercise is one of the best things you can do to increase your bone strength because of the concentrated pressure it puts on your bones.
  • Diet: A diet lacking in calcium plays a major role in the development of osteoporosis. Eating calcium-rich foods and supplementing with a quality calcium supplement will ensure you are getting the adequate amounts needed.
  • Family history: Having a family member with osteoporosis puts you at greater risk as osteoporosis is genetic.
  • Body size: Women and men who have small body frames tend to have a higher risk for osteoporosis.



  1. ^ http://www.medicinenet.com/bone_density_scan/article.htm
  2. ^ http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=dexa
  3. ^ https://www.algaecal.com/blog/dexa-tests-and-radiation/
  4. ^ http://www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=7099


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