Osteopenia - Is Treatment Necessary?

If your doctor diagnoses you with osteopenia, is it time to panic? Do you need treatment? Here are a few opinions on the topic.

The definition of osteopenia is bone density that is lower than normal but not low enough to be called osteoporosis. Typically, a T score of -2.5 and lower is classified as osteoporosis, while -2.4 and higher is classifed as osteopenia. There's a lot of controversy over osteopenia. Many people claim it is an invented disease and say it's wrong to place pre-menopausal women with osteopenia on osteoporosis drugs such as Fosamax, especially since these drugs can possibly lead to serious side effects. If your doctor diagnoses you with osteopenia, is it time to panic? Here are a few opinions on the topic:

Because the term “osteopenia” is not useful as a diagnosis and can actually be harmful, I am on a personal crusade to eliminate it from the bone density lexicon. -- Nelson B. Watts, MD, Director, University of Cincinnati Bone Health and Osteoporosis Center
"I've seen patients who come in scared that they will become disabled soon because they have this 'disease' called osteopenia, when in fact they are normal for their age." -- Dr. Steven Cummings, epidemiologist at UC San Francisco.
Osteopenia ... is just another invented illness. In fact, little more than a decade ago, it didn't even exist ... It's another situation in which a bunch of experts got together, set some arbitrary guidelines, and bingo! Millions of people who were healthy the day before woke up with a disease. -- Dr. Julian Whitaker
Osteopenia, however, is not a disease or even a true diagnosis. It merely indicates a state of relative low-side bone mass. You could have "osteopenia" because you never developed a high peak bone mass in your youth. It does not have to mean that you are currently losing bone. You simply could have a low-side bone density. -- Susan Brown, Ph.D.

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