Things You Should Know About Oral Steroids

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Oral steroids or oral corticosteroids are available in tablets, soluble tablets and syrups. They are a non-narcotic type of prescription medication that is used for anti-inflammatory purposes. Glucocorticoids decrease your body’s natural defensive response, reducing symptoms such as swelling and allergic-type reactions.

There are six common types of oral steroids: Cortisone Acetate, Dexamethasone, Hydrocortisone, Methylprednisolone, Prednisolone and Prednisone. They have similar effects but differ in dosage.

Prescriptions                                                   

Oral steroids are used to treat several conditions like:

  • Joint and muscle diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis and Polymyalgia Rheumatica
  • Autoimmune diseases like Autoimmune Hepatitis
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis
  • Blood disorders
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Immune system disorders
  • Allergic reactions
  • Skin problems
  • Eye conditions
  • Asthma
  • Adrenal gland disorders like Cushing’s syndrome

Dosage

Steroids should be taken in a different dosage according to your condition:

  • Cortisone Acetate

Available in 10mg and 25mg tablets

  • Dexamethasone

This is available in various dosages, with 0.50mg being the lowest and the 6mg tablet being the highest. The solution or liquid is available in a 4mg/ml dosage

  • Hydrocortisone

Available in a 10mg/5ml suspension, the tablet form comes in 5mg, 10mg and 20mg alternatives

  • Methylprednisolone

The lowest dosage of Methylprednisolone is 4mg, while the highest is 32mg – both are available in tablet form

  • Prednisolone

Available in a 15mg/5ml solution, you can also get dissolvable tablets in 10mg, 15mg or 30mg strengths

  • Prednisone

The tablet is available in variables of 1mg to 20mg, while the oral solution is available in  5mg/5ml strength

(Source: aaaai.org)

Side Effects

Side effects will depend on the dosage and may include:

  • Elevated pressure in the eyes like glaucoma
  • Fluid retention that causes swelling in your lower legs
  • High blood pressure
  • Behavioural problems like changes in mood; memory problems and other psychological effects
  • Increase in weight, fat deposits in the abdomen, face and back of the neck

If any of these symptoms persist, you should tell your doctor immediately.

Precautions

Before using oral steroids, you must consult with your doctor. Some medications will interact with others and this may influence the steroids you can take:

  • People with a history of diabetes should not use oral steroids since they will increase the blood sugar levels. Patients with active infections and fungal infections should avoid steroid use because it can worsen the condition
  • Limit your alcohol intake while on this medication. Steroids may increase the risk of stomach bleeding
  • Consult with your doctor before taking vaccines because steroids can make certain vaccines ineffective.

If you are taking oral steroids for more than three weeks, do not suddenly stop using them as you could experience withdrawal symptoms that include:

  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • Hypotension

Steroids should always be taken responsibly and in accordance with the recommended dosage. Improper use may worsen certain health conditions. Furthermore, the abuse or overdose of steroids may lead to life-threatening situations.