Understanding and Managing Corticosteroid-Induced Osteoporosis
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Glucocorticoids are effective immunosuppressants used in a wide variety of diseases. Their use results in secondary osteoporosis in about 30-50% of chronic glucocorticoid users. Glucocorticoids cause a rapid decline in bone strength within the first 3-6 months mostly due to increased bone resorption by osteoclasts. This is followed by a more gradual loss of bone partly due to decreased osteoblastogenesis and osteoblast and osteocyte apoptosis. The loss of bone strength induced by glucocorticoids is not fully captured by bone mineral density measurements. Other tools such as the trabecular bone score and advanced imaging techniques give insight into bone quality; however, these are not used widely in clinical practice. Glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis should be seen as a widely preventable disease. Currently, only about 15% of chronic glucocorticoid users are receiving optimal care. Glucocorticoids should be prescribed at the lowest dose and shortest duration. All patients should be counselled on lifestyle measures to maintain bone strength including nutrition and weight-bearing exercise. Pharmacological therapy should be considered for all patients at moderate to high risk of fracture as there is evidence for the prevention of bone loss and fractures with a favourable safety profile. Oral bisphosphonates are the current mainstay of therapy, whereas osteoanabolic agents may be considered for those at highest risk of fracture.
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