Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids | Dr. Ali Ghahary

If your physician has prescribed you a corticosteroid, then he or she has strongly weighed the benefits vs the potential risks that can occur as a result of taking them – which we’ll delve into a bit deeper later on in this article. As for what corticosteroids are, they’re a class of medications that mimic the hormones in your body and are designed to reduce inflammation in the body and are commonly prescribed to treat a variety of conditions – including but not limited to allergies, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ulcerative colitis, and Chron’s disease; and can be taken orally, nasally, topically, or via injection.

Among the most commonly prescribed steroids in North American are:

• Betamethasone
• Budesonide
• Cortisone
• Dexamethasone
• Hydrocortisone
• Methylprednisolone
• Prednisolone
• Prednisone
• Triamcinolone

One common example for use of corticosteroids, as mentioned, is if you suffer from allergies and are unable to find relief through other measures (such as reducing your exposure to the allergen or by taking an over-the-counter antihistamine like Benadryl.) In many cases, someone with allergies will be prescribed a nasal spray that contains a corticosteroid in it, which is usually used twice a day (morning and night.) A corticosteroid nasal spray can help reduce inflammation in the nasal passages and relieve symptoms such as nasal congestion, runny nose, etc.; while someone who has a severe sinus infection may also require use of a corticosteroid in addition to antibiotic treatment to also help reduce sinus inflammation.

In most cases, corticosteroids are well-tolerated if taken on a short-term basis – and are typically not recommended for use longer than 3 to 5 days. However, in some instances, individuals may experience side-effects, particularly if they are on them long-term. As a result, some of the side-effects and risks that are most commonly reported due to use of steroids include the following:

• Weakened immune system
• Increased number of infections
• Blurred vision and other eye-related problems (such as cataracts or glaucoma)
• Bruise easily
• Puffiness of the face, hands, legs or feet
• Increased appetite and weight gain
• Increased growth of body hair
• Insomnia and/or restlessness
• High blood pressure
• Muscle weakness
• Stomach upset or bleeding of the stomach
• Mood swings

If you’re on a topical steroid, you may develop thinning of the skin, red skin lesions, or even acne. If you’re receiving it via injection, thin skinning can also occur in addition to skin discolouration, and pain.

If you are taking a steroid and happen to notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, you should always let your prescribing physician know as soon as possible. Your dose may need to be altered, medication may need to be changed, or, it is also possible that the symptoms you’re experiencing could even be unrelated to the medication you’re taking.