DEXA Scan: Insert Pun On Bone Here

Note: This post was first published March 9, 2017.

Because I can’t think of one. And I’m a bit too ticked to be letting my good humor carry me right now.

So I had my neuro appointment on Tuesday. As we were wrapping up, deciding when I next needed to see her, she asked, “When was your last DEXA scan?” I didn’t know what to say.

A DEXA scanner.

For those who don’t know, a DEXA scan is a Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry scan. In the radiology office where I work, we usually call it a bone density scan. It’s designed to check whether you’re at risk of major bone fracture (breaking your hip or your upper leg) because of bone loss. It’s a standard test given to women after menopause, since hormonal changes at that point can weaken the bones. People think “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” only applies to seniors – but apparently, the same thing can happen if you’re taking certain anti-epilepsy drugs too. In fact, that’s a well-known side effect of Trileptal, the medication I was put on about 12 years ago. The one I was taking extra high doses of until last fall.

But not only Trileptal. According to the Epilepsy Foundation of America, a whole slew of anti-epileptics interfere with the body’s metabolism of calcium and vitamin D, the body’s bone strengtheners. Including Dilantin and Tegretol (phenytoin and carbamazepine), both of which I’ve been on. The Epilepsy Foundation says very clearly:

Any person taking anti-seizure drugs — whether male or female — should get at least 1,200 MG of Calcium per day and at least 1,200 IU of Vitamin D a day. This includes young children who are also highly vulnerable.

In addition, doctors should advise patients of the possible risks.

Well, guess what? The doctor who prescribed me the Trileptal didn’t say a word. Not when he first prescribed me the meds, not for the entire time I saw him. I’m a bit ticked at him. Will I say anything to him? Maybe, maybe not. That depends at least partly on the results of my scan. Which I won’t see for probably a week, according to the tech.

Oh—about the exam. Really straightforward. You lie on the little table thingy there. The arm moves over you, up and down. You put your legs on a big block to get them close to the scanner, because it’s looking for bone strength in your lower leg. Then they take away the block so they can focus on your hip. Then they move up to your mid-back. The whole thing took about 10 minutes and the tech was REALLY nice. I forgot to get her name but I’ll definitely commend her.

So: watch your health. Including your bone health. Remember, epilepsy’s not just the seizures. It’s all the rest of the stuff we go through trying to live a normal life. But like I say to everyone, life’s good. It can suck a lot, but basically, life is good.

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