Glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis

Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Apr;11(3):79-85. doi: 10.1016/s1043-2760(00)00234-4.


Endogenous cortisol excess and glucocorticoid (GC) treatment have a profound effect on bone metabolism, acting at many sites. The mechanism of GC action on bone turnover is complex and has not been elucidated completely. GCs increase bone resorption, inhibit bone formation and have an indirect action on bone by decreasing intestinal Ca2+ absorption, modifying vitamin D metabolism, and sustaining a marked hypercalciuria, with variable changes in plasma PTH levels; finally, GCs inhibit the gonadotropic and somatotropic axis. GC-induced osteoporosis is preventable, treatable and potentially reversible. The prevention and treatment of GC-induced osteoporosis include some general measures (as well as the use of the minimal effective dose of GC), Ca2+ and vitamin D supplementation and treatment with bone anabolic and antiresorptive agents. Recent trials suggest that bisphosphonates are an effective therapeutic tool in the treatment of GC-induced bone damage. Recent data on GC receptor-selective modulators indicate that these new molecules might induce only minimal bone loss while maintaining the typical anti-inflammatory properties of GC. Another new line of study for the prevention of GC-induced osteoporosis is the characterization of the individual's susceptibility to GC-induced bone damage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Resorption / chemically induced
  • Bone and Bones / drug effects
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Osteogenesis / drug effects
  • Osteoporosis / chemically induced*
  • Osteoporosis / diagnosis
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control
  • Osteoporosis / therapy


  • Glucocorticoids