Posted by: Thixia | May 28, 2008

Steroids and MS 2 of 5


Prednisone and other corticosteroids: Balance the risks and benefits


Corticosteroid medications, such as cortisone, hydrocortisone and prednisone, have great potential in the treatment of a variety of conditions, from rashes to lupus to asthma. But corticosteroids also carry a risk of side effects. Working with your doctor, you can take steps to reduce the medications’ side effects so that the benefits of treatment outweigh the risks. Find out more about corticosteroids to help you decide whether this type of medication is right for you.




How do corticosteroids work?


Corticosteroids mimic the effects of cortisone and hydrocortisone — hormones your body produces naturally in your adrenal glands, which sit atop your kidneys.  Corticosteroids help control:


·    Stress of illness and injury

·    Immune function

·    Inflammation


Corticosteroid medications are chemically similar to your body’s natural steroids and duplicate their actions.  When prescribed in doses that exceed your body’s usual levels, corticosteroids suppress inflammation, which can reduce the symptoms of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and asthma.


Researchers don’t fully understand how corticosteroids suppress inflammation.  One theory is that they deactivate a protein associated with inflammation.  Another is that they alter the function of cell membranes.




How are corticosteroids used?


Dozens of corticosteroid medications are available today. The drugs are front-line treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, asthma, allergies and many other conditions. They also treat life-threatening conditions such as Addison’s disease, in which the adrenal glands don’t produce enough steroids, and help prevent organ rejection in transplant recipients.


You can take corticosteroids:

·    Orally.   Tablets, capsules or syrups help treat the inflammation and pain associated with certain chronic conditions such as arthritis and lupus.


·    By inhaler and intranasal spray.   These forms help control inflammation associated with allergy and asthma.


·    Topically.   Creams, ointments, and roll-ons can help heal many skin conditions.


·    By injection.   This form is used to treat such signs and symptoms as the pain and inflammation of tendonitis, severe musculoskeletal pain or serious rashes from poison ivy.




What side effects can corticosteroids cause?


Like all medications, corticosteroids carry a risk of side effects. Some side effects can cause serious health problems. When you know what side effects are possible, you can take steps to control their impact on your health.




Side effects of oral corticosteroids

Because oral corticosteroids affect your entire body instead of a particular area, this form is the most likely to cause significant side effects. Within days or weeks of starting oral therapy, you have an increased risk of:


·    Elevated pressure in the eyes (glaucoma)

·    Fluid retention, causing swelling in your lower legs

·    Increased blood pressure

·    Mood swings

·    Weight gain, with fat deposits in your abdomen, face and the back of your neck



When taking oral corticosteroids longer term, you may experience:


·    Cataracts

·    High blood sugar, which can trigger or worsen diabetes

·    Increased risk of infections

·    Loss of calcium from bones, which can lead to osteoporosis and fractures

·    Menstrual irregularities

·    Suppressed adrenal gland hormone production

·    Thin skin, easy bruising and slower wound healing





A Compilation by Bonnie from:


·    Michael E. Pezim, MD 
in association with the MediResource Clinical Team 

·    The Canadian Press
Helen Branswell

Toronto, Ontario,


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