Important Safety Information
Steroids — or corticosteroids — include medications such as prednisone and/or cortisone. They are designed to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system.
You may have to limit salt intake to reduce the likelihood of water retention. Your doctor may recommend having a meal prior to treatment, as well as prescribe a sleep medication to prevent insomnia. If you’re pregnant, there’s a possibility of being pregnant, or are planning on getting pregnant, talk to your doctor about your options — as steroids may affect your unborn baby.
What is the most important information I should know about Steroids?
Steroids are synthetic hormones that mimic those naturally occurring in the human body. However, they don’t come without risks. Older patients are at higher risk of experiencing high blood pressure and/or osteoporosis. Children may experience stunted growth, and breastfeeding mothers may pass on the medication to their baby.
Steroids Side Effects
As with most prescription medications, using steroids carries the risk of side effects. The most common ones include:
- Skin rashes
- Upset stomach
- Metallic taste in your mouth
- Flushed face due to high blood pressure
- Mood swings and/or depression
- Stomach ulcers
- Increased appetite
- Muscle weakness
- Water retention
- Reduced libido
- Swelling of the legs (edema)
- Puffiness of the face
- Facial hair growth
- Bruising easily
If undergoing treatment for an extended period of time, steroids may increase the risk of developing additional health conditions. The most common include:
Steroids affect the way the body metabolizes calcium and vitamin D. This can lead to bone loss and fractures — and in the most severe cases, osteoporosis. This is more likely to occur in patients who are undergoing long-term treatment or receiving high doses of the medication. Talk to your doctor about reducing the risk by modifying your diet, being physically active, limiting alcohol intake, quitting smoking, and taking precautions to avoid falls.
Steroids may increase blood glucose levels in patients with pre-diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance. Talk to your doctor if you have diabetes or are concerned about diabetes. It may be possible to move forward with treatment with close monitoring of each infusion therapy to keep blood glucose levels at a healthy range. You may need to increase your insulin doses, as well as regular urine tests to monitor ketone levels.
Cataracts or Glaucoma
Steroids may cause eye pressure to increase, which can affect your vision. Specifically, it may cause posterior subcapsular cataracts — which produce cloudy areas to develop under the corneas. Steroids may also lead to a buildup of debris in the aqueous humor. Tell your doctor immediately if you experience blind spots, severe headaches, blurred vision, eye redness, tunnel vision, and/or eye pain.
Steroids may suppress cortisol production by the adrenal glands. This could result in a life-threatening condition called an adrenal crisis. Tell your doctor immediately if you experience confusion, dizziness, lightheadedness, headaches, abdominal pain, or a high fever.
Reduced Sperm Count
Steroids are one of the main causes of male infertility. This is due to corticosteroids possibly causing testicles to shrink and reduce or completely cease sperm production. However, most male patients will recover their usual sperm production within a year of stopping treatment.
Tell your doctor if you experience any negative side effects. You are also encouraged to report such side effects to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by visiting www.fda.gov/medwatch, or by calling 1-800-FDA-1088.
Steroids are designed to treat inflammatory conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), asthma, arthritis, lupus, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), autoimmune disorders, and severe allergic reactions.
Prednisone can also be used to alleviate the symptoms of certain types of cancer.