Many chronic inflammatory diseases require treatment with steroids, however, a remarkable proportion of steroid-treated patients suffer from osteoporosis as major complication after longterm treatment. Steroid-induced osteoporosis represents one of the most important secondary causes of osteoporosis. The pathogenesis is complex, there exists evidence that steroids cause a reduction of circulating testosteron and estrogen concentration and adversely affect calcium balance. The most important mechanism is a decrease in osteoblastic activity. As a consequence loss of bone mineral density and increased risk of fracture develop. In spite of better understanding of the causal relationships preventive strategies were infrequently applied.
If we care for patients with steroid therapy we have both to consider the problem of steroid-induced osteoporosis and to focus on strategies to evaluate patients at risk. The dosage of the steroid, life style factors (such as lack of exercise, alcohol consumption and smoking), menopausal status, low bone mineral density at baseline and previous osteoporotic fractures predispose for the manifestation of steroid-induced osteoporosis. Therapeutic decisions depend on risk factors of the individual patient. Supplementation of calcium and vitamin D is usually appropriate, and postmenopausal women should be offered hormon replacement therapy. The prescription of biphosphonates is strongly recommended to patients at elevated risk.
Anabolic steroids are composed of testosterone and other substances related to testosterone that promote growth of skeletal muscle, increase hemoglobin concentration, and mediate secondary sexual characteristics. These substances have been in use since the 1930s to promote muscle growth, improve athletic performance, and enhance cosmetic appearance. Although anabolic steroids are controlled substances, only to be prescribed by a physician, it is currently possible to obtain anabolic steroids illegally without a prescription. There are significant negative physical and psychologic effects of anabolic steroid use, which in women can cause significant cosmetic and reproductive changes. Anabolic steroid use can be addictive and, therefore, difficult to stop. Treatment for anabolic steroid abuse generally involves education, counseling, and management of withdrawal symptoms. Health care providers are encouraged to address the use of these substances, encourage cessation, and refer patients to substance abuse treatment centers to prevent the long-term irreversible consequences of anabolic steroid use.