But these drugs also carry a risk of various side effects. When prescribed in doses that exceed your body's usual levels, corticosteroids suppress inflammation. This can reduce the signs and symptoms of inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis, asthma or skin rashes. Corticosteroids also suppress your immune system, which can help control conditions in which your immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues. Corticosteroid drugs are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease IBD , asthma, allergies and many other conditions.
These drugs also help suppress the immune system in order to prevent organ rejection in transplant recipients. Corticosteroids also treat Addison's disease, a relatively rare condition where the adrenal glands aren't able to produce even the minimum amount of corticosteroid that the body needs. Corticosteroids are administered in many different ways, depending on the condition being treated:. Corticosteroids carry a risk of side effects, some of which can cause serious health problems.
When you know what side effects are possible, you can take steps to control their impact. Because oral corticosteroids affect your entire body instead of just a particular area, this route of administration is the most likely to cause significant side effects. Side effects depend on the dose of medication you receive and may include:. When using an inhaled corticosteroid, some of the drug may deposit in your mouth and throat instead of making it to your lungs.
This can cause:. If you gargle and rinse your mouth with water — don't swallow — after each puff on your corticosteroid inhaler, you may be able to avoid mouth and throat irritation. Some researchers have speculated that inhaled corticosteroid drugs may slow growth rates in children who use them for asthma. Injected corticosteroids can cause temporary side effects near the site of the injection, including skin thinning, loss of color in the skin, and intense pain — also known as post-injection flare.
Other signs and symptoms may include facial flushing, insomnia and high blood sugar. Doctors usually limit corticosteroid injections to three or four a year, depending on each patient's situation. Corticosteroids may cause a range of side effects. But they may also relieve the inflammation, pain and discomfort of many different diseases and conditions.
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Sign up now. Prednisone and other corticosteroids Weigh the benefits and risks of corticosteroids, such as prednisone, when choosing a medication. By Mayo Clinic Staff. Show references Ritter JM, et al. The pituitary and the adrenal cortex. Elsevier; Accessed Oct. Grennan D, et al. Steroid side effects. Saag KG, et al. Major side effects of systemic glucocorticoids. Major side effects of inhaled glucocorticoids.
Roberts WN, et al. Joint aspiration or injection in adults: Complications. Nieman LK. Pharmacologic use of glucocorticoids. Long-term glucocorticoid therapy. Mayo Clinic; Wilkinson JM expert opinion. Mayo Clinic. Most data on the long-term effects of anabolic steroids in humans come from case reports rather than formal epidemiological studies.
Serious and life-threatening adverse effects may be underreported, especially since they may occur many years later. One review found 19 deaths in published case reports related to anabolic steroid use between and ; however, many steroid users also used other drugs, making it difficult to show that the anabolic steroid use caused these deaths. Steroids contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease partly by increasing the level of low-density lipoprotein LDL 47 and decreasing the level of high-density lipoprotein HDL.
If blood is prevented from reaching the heart or brain, the result can be a heart attack or stroke, respectively. Steroids also increase the risk that blood clots will form in blood vessels, potentially disrupting blood flow and damaging the heart muscle, so that it does not pump blood effectively. Steroid use disrupts the normal production of hormones in the body. Changes that can be reversed include decreased sperm production, 56—59 decreased function of the testes hypogonadism that leads to low testosterone levels, 60 and shrinking of the testicles testicular atrophy.
In females, anabolic steroids cause masculinization. Specifically, breast size and body fat decrease, the skin becomes coarse, and the voice deepens. It is commonly believed that anabolic steroids will produce irreversible enlargement of the clitoris in females, although there are no studies on this. Many people who inject anabolic steroids may use nonsterile injection techniques or share contaminated needles with other users.
This puts these steroid users at risk for acquiring life threatening viral infections, such as HIV and hepatitis B and C. Steroid misuse has been associated with liver damage, 50,51 tumors, 46,52,53 and a rare condition called peliosis hepatis, in which blood-filled cysts form in the liver.
Rising levels of testosterone and other sex hormones normally trigger the growth spurt that occurs during puberty and adolescence. These rising levels of testosterone also provide the signals to stop growth.