Some older individuals will experience side effects that are more pronounced. Older adults have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure or osteoporosis (a disorder in which the bones lose mass and density) when taking corticosteroid drugs. Women, in particular, are at risk for this condition. However, recent research has suggested that the risk of non vertebral fracture in older adults is not higher in the short term when inhaled corticosteroid treatments are used.
Depending on the patient’s individual situation, older adults may be advised to undergo bone density screening, a test that can help detect osteoporosis. Patients at risk may also benefit from taking calcium supplements, undergoing hormone replacement therapy and exercising regularly.
Patients over the age of 50 also risk the development of cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye) and glaucoma (a group of diseases that can damage the optic nerve, resulting in vision loss). For this reason, older adults taking high doses of corticosteroids may be advised to undergo eye examinations.
High dosages of oral corticosteroids taken daily for prolonged periods of time can have serious systemic side effects including bone loss ( osteoporosis), increased risk of infections and diabetes and cataracts, thinning of skin, stretch marks, increased facial/body hair growth, acne, fluid retention, weight gain with redistribution of fat (fat deposits on back and face, thinning of limbs), muscle weakness, decreased resistance to infections, stomach ulcers, mood swings, insomnia, suppression of the body's own production of cortisol, etc.