AUSTIN -- Nearly 2 million men suffer from osteoporosis, yet a new study finds that men are 10 times less likely to be screened.
One in two women more than 50 years old are likely to develop osteoporosis, which makes bones brittle, but so will one in four men. However, men are 10 times less likely to be screened for the disease.
Richard Wierzbicki, 59, has been on crutches for two months. Initially, he thought he'd pulled a thigh muscle. The pain was not due to a pulled muscle, but a stress fracture near his hip. Wierzbicki discovered after the injury that he suffered from osteoporosis.
"There's really no other indicator," said Wierzbicki. "I hadn't had a problem of ongoing fractures previously, so there was no other indication that I might have an issue."
Like most men, Wierzbicki was not screened for the disease.
"Traditionally women are screened," said Robert Koval, M.D., a rheumatologist with Texas Orthopedics. "The rates of screening women is significant and it's appropriate, but in men it's just goes by the wayside."
Part of the screening process involves a DEXA or bone density scan, which emits low level radiation, and, similar to the color code used by meteorologists, the yellow, orange and red are the most severe areas of osteoporosis. However, doctors say the key is to get screened at the time of a low impact fracture.
"I don't care as much about a motor vehicle accident or high impact fractures as I do as someone who falls stepping off a curb or something like that," said Koval. "Why? Because that's a sign that your bones are too weak. They should not fracture in that situation."
Once doctors at Texas Orthopedics determined osteoporosis caused Wierzbicki's fracture, they told him he didn't need surgery, just medication to increase his bone density and stay on crutches for about two months.
"The pain went away within a day or so of my getting on the crutches and really hasn't returned," said Wierzbicki.
DEXA scans work on both men and women. Since the incidence of osteoporosis increases with age, Koval recommends anyone over 50 get scanned if they suffer a low impact fracture.
Click here for more information on the study.
Click here for a link to Texas Orthopedics.