What are steroids? Also known as Cortisone or Corticosteroids are Hormones that occur naturally in the body.
Steroids decrease inflammation, suppress the body’s immune system, block DNA from being made and also block chemical called ‘histamine’ released during an allergic reaction. ‘Steroid medicines’ are manmade but similar to the natural hormones.
Oral Steroids are medicines taken by mouth in the form of pills, liquids etc and used to treat medical conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis ), auto immune diseases like auto immune hepatitis, joint muscle diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, poly myalgia rheumatica, allergies and asthma. It is also used in treating certain types of cancer and as replacement for patients who cannot make their own steroids (Addison’s disease).
Examples of oral steroids are Betamethasone, Cortisone, Deflazacort, Dexamethasone etc.,
Predinisolone is the most commonly used oral steroid.
Side effects of Oral Steroids
A short course of steroids (1-2 weeks) usually causes no side effects. Side effects are more likely to occur when taken for more then 2-3 months or repeated short courses. The higher the dose, greater the risk of side effects.
A common treatment plan often adopted by doctors is to start with a high dosage to control symptoms and gradually reduce to a lower daily dose that keeps symptoms away. The length of treatment varies depending on the disease. Sometimes it may be stopped gradually if the conditions improve. However, in certain patients it is needed for life.
The main side effects of taking steroid medicine are:-
- Weight gain
- Increased chance of infections
- Increase in blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Skin problems like thinning skin, easy bruising, and stretch marks
- Muscle weakness
- Risk of developing cataracts
- Increased risk of duodenal and stomach ulcers
Important things you should know about Oral Steroids
- Oral steroids should not be stopped suddenly and only supervised by a doctor
- Do not take inflammatory pain killer (ibuprofen etc) whilst taking steroids unless advised by the doctor.