Let’s figure it out!

woman being diagnosed with menopause

Diagnosis: Let’s figure it out!

Some of the uncomfortable signs and symptoms of menopause don’t require tests—your age and a description of your discomfort are usually enough for your doctor to make a diagnosis. However, other conditions may call for more tests and analysis. 

Tracking menopause symptoms

Some conditions, such as osteoporosis, can be invisible for years. Your doctor will tell you when and how often you should be tested.


Try to keep a record of the things that cause you any pain or discomfort, such as the time, duration, and intensity of hot flashes. Use a nightly sleep log to track any sleep disturbances and bring it with you to your next appointment. 


Hot flashes: 
Who turned up the thermostat?

If you are in your mid-40s to mid-50s and have hot flashes, lab work or other testing is not usually required to confirm a diagnosis. However, it is worth talking with your doctor because treatment options are available to manage hot flashes. 

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Why am I getting shorter?

doctor measuring womans height

Bone loss is one sign of menopause that can be invisible for decades. However, as osteoporosis progresses, bones in the spine (vertebrae) can weaken and fracture. Some menopausal women may experience pain or discomfort. 


Fractures in the front part of the vertebrae often cause no pain at all, but they can lead to a slight curving of the spine or loss of height. If there is pain, it usually travels from the back to the sides of the body. 


A physical exam may be helpful in determining whether you have osteoporosis. Your doctor may measure any decreases in height. The presence of a visible curve in the back or a history of certain types of bone fractures can also be signs of bone loss.


Now that accurate screening methods are available, it has become routine to test for and treat osteoporosis so that fractures may be prevented. 


How dense are your bones?

A bone mineral density test, or BMD test, is used to diagnose osteoporosis or assess an individual’s risk for developing fractures; the test uses a special kind of X-ray to measure bone density in areas such as your hip or spine.  A common method for measuring BMD is a DEXA scan, which is a simple and noninvasive test. 


When do women need to get a bone scan?


Age 65+ all women 65 years or older
  • Every 15 years if there is normal bone mass or mild bone loss
  • More often if tests indicate osteopenia or decreased BMD
Under 65 women under 65 years

All postmenopausal women under 65 years of age who have had a bone fracture due to fragile bones or have other risk factors need to have a bone scan. Some risk factors for weak bones include:


  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Smoking
  • Alcoholism
  • A parent who had a hip fracture
  • Weight less than 127 pounds

It might be your first warning sign

If your bones are in the process of losing strength and density but you don’t have osteoporosis yet, your doctor may tell you that you have osteopenia, or low bone density. Fractures can still occur if you have osteopenia and have not yet developed osteoporosis or even if you have normal BMD. Risk factors for osteopenia/osteoporosis include Caucasian or Asian heritage, slender body type, and having family members who have been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis. 

group of women walking on beach