Osteopenia (cont.)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

What follow-up is needed after treatment of osteopenia has been initiated?

Often osteopenia does not require treatment with prescription medications. In this situation, the bone density test may be repeated to monitor the bone mineral density (BMD), usually after two years, to detect progressive bone loss and determine if treatment is necessary. Two years may seem like a long time between tests, but BMD changes very slowly, and this length of time is usually necessary to detect significant changes in bone density.

A follow-up test for BMD is frequently repeated after treatment with prescription medication for osteopenia is begun. Again, because changes in BMD occur slowly, the repeat testing is usually done several years after treatment is begun. However, follow-up testing while on treatment is controversial because

  • decrease in the risk for fracture while on treatment for osteopenia and osteoporosis is not always mirrored by an increase in BMD on DXA or other testing
  • and if repeat testing shows continued bone loss, this does not mean the medication is not working because it is also likely the bone loss would have been much worse if left untreated.

Can osteopenia be prevented?

The best way to prevent osteopenia is by living a healthfully. In regard to osteopenia, prevention includes ensuring adequate calcium intake either through diet or supplements, ensuring adequate vitamin D intake, not drinking too much alcohol (no more than two drinks daily), not smoking, and getting plenty of exercise. For most people, prescription medications are not necessary to prevent osteopenia. However, some people taking certain medications (such as prednisone or other steroids) for more than a few months may need to take prescription medication to prevent bone loss.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/28/2015

Osteoporosis Pictures Slideshow: Are Your Bones at Risk?

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Osteopenia - Causes Question: If known, what is the cause of your osteopenia?
Osteopenia - Signs and Symptoms Question: Describe the signs and symptoms associated with your osteopenia.
Osteopenia - Diagnosis Question: Describe the events that led to a diagnosis of osteopenia.
Osteopenia - Treatment Question: What treatments or therapies have you received for your osteopenia?