People with asthma found to have increased risk of bone conditions

A summary of research published in the European Respiratory Journal

Long-term steroid use is known to increase the risk of conditions that weaken the bones in the body. A new study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, looked at the risk specifically for people with asthma who use steroids to help ease asthma symptoms, such as breathlessness and coughing.

What did the study look at?

The authors aimed to understand the risk of two types of bone conditions:

  • osteoporosis – a health condition that weakens the bones, making them fragile and more likely to break, and
  • fragility fractures – fractures caused by a force which would not normally cause the bone to break.

This study used a research database containing health information about millions of people from doctors’ practices in the UK. The authors searched for people with asthma and compared them to people without asthma. In addition to looking at cases of osteoporosis and fractures, they also looked at the use of steroids.

What do the results show?

People with asthma were found to have a higher risk of osteoporosis. The risk of fracture was also higher in the group of people with asthma – 3.1% of people with asthma (31 in every 1,000 people) sustained a fracture, compared to 2.5% of people without asthma (25 in every 1,000 people).

The results also found that the risk of fracture was increased with even just one prescription of steroids each year. Increasing the number of prescriptions of steroids each year also appeared to raise the risk of osteoporosis. The risk was larger for young people with asthma, compared to young people without asthma.   

Why is this important?

The findings are important to help people understand more about the medication they are taking. The authors suggest that healthcare professionals can help to reduce the risk of these bone conditions for people with asthma by reviewing steroid use and using the lowest dose possible.

Read the original research paper

Title: Incidence of osteoporosis and fragility fractures in asthma: a UK population-based matched cohort study