Glucocorticoid therapy as a significant risk factor for osteoporosis and fractures in an Italian postmenopausal population

Gynecol Endocrinol. 2013 Jul;29(7):678-82. doi: 10.3109/09513590.2013.788631. Epub 2013 May 2.


Objective: To analyze the potential effects of glucocorticoid treatment without an osteoporosis prevention strategy and to precociously identify patients at high risk of osteoporosis and fragility fractures in the postmenopausal period.

Methods: A total of 382 postmenopausal patients, 177 exposed and 205 not exposed to glucocorticoid therapy, were studied using a standard questionnaire. Epidemiological as well as clinical data that included the most recent absorptiometry test results were examined.

Results: Osteoporosis and fractures were frequent in the postmenopausal glucocorticoid-treated patients. Fragility fractures occurred more frequently in glucocorticoid-treated patients (vertebral fractures represented 45% of all fractures) than in the non-glucocorticoid-treated patients. In particular, the highest fracture percentage was found in 50- to 65-year-old glucocorticoid-treated patients, a subset of patients showing a prevalence of osteoporosis similar to that of non-exposed menopausal subjects older than 65. Glucocorticoid therapy increases the risk of fragility fractures fivefold and doubles the risk of osteoporosis in menopausal patients.

Conclusions: Glucocorticoid treatments put menopausal patients at a high risk of incurring fragility fractures even in the early postmenopausal period. The management of strategies for fracture prevention must take into consideration early intervention in patients undergoing or about to undergo glucocorticoid treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bone Density / drug effects
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / chemically induced*
  • Fractures, Bone / epidemiology
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects*
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / chemically induced*
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / epidemiology
  • Postmenopause* / drug effects
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors


  • Glucocorticoids