Steroids can help with an MS relapse, but they come with the risk of side effects. Here's what to watch out for. When a person with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis MS has an acute symptom flare-up, they are often prescribed a short course of high-dose steroids, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society NMSS. Typically, steroids are given intravenously or orally for three to five days. The steroids used for MS flares are known as corticosteroids , which mimic natural hormones produced in the adrenal gland and which interrupt inflammation.
McCoyd says. But even in the short term, steroids can have side effects — although, says McCoyd, once you start to taper the drug, most side effects will subside. However, it helps to know what you may be in for, so here are six possible side effects to be aware of:. Steroids can give you an extra boost of energy, explains Dr. If you do have trouble falling asleep, experience unpleasant dreams, or feel sleepy or fatigued during the day, the following tips may help:.
Some people notice a funny, metallic taste in their mouth when undergoing steroid treatment. Sucking on mints or hard candies may help alleviate it. Other common side effects of steroids include upset stomach , nausea, and vomiting. If you experience indigestion or heartburn, ask your doctor to suggest an over-the-counter antacid to help control it. Medications called proton pump inhibitors , such as Prilosec omeprazole or Prevacid lansoprazole , are also used to help with stomach symptoms, and your doctor may prescribe them to prevent stomach issues, says Barbara Giesser, MD , a multiple sclerosis specialist with Pacific Neuroscience Institute in Santa Monica, California, and professor emeritus of clinical neurology at the David Geffen UCLA School of Medicine in Los Angeles.
Mood swings with steroid treatment can range from mild to serious. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have a history of depression, anxiety disorder, or bipolar disorder. Because of this, make sure your doctors always know if you have been treated with steroids in the past, especially in the past year, so they can be on the alert for the development of adrenal insufficiency at times such as a surgical procedure.
Long-term steroids can suppress the protective role of your immune system and increase your risk of infection. Steroids may increase your risk of developing ulcers or gastrointestinal bleeding, especially if you take these medications along with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen or aspirin. If you are on low-dose aspirin for heart protection, your physician may want you to continue this when you take the prednisone, but might consdier adding a medication for stomach protection during the course of steroids.
Steroid therapy can cause thinning of the bones osteopenia and osteoporosis , and increase the risk of bone fractures. At the beginning or before your steroid therapy, many patients will be asked to have a bone density test, especially if the steroid dose is high. If density is low, the bone density study It will be repeated in the future to assess the effectiveness of measures you will be using to prevent bone loss.
Steroids affect your metabolism and how your body deposits fat. This can increase your appetite, leading to weight gain, and in particular lead to extra deposits of fat in your abdomen. Steroids, especially in doses over 30 milligrams per day, can affect your mood. Just being aware that steroids can do this sometimes makes it less of a problem. Sometimes, this side effect requires that the steroid dosage be decreased. When the steroids are absolutely necessary, sometimes another medication can be added to help with the mood problem.
Make sure your family knows about this possible side effect. Because cortisone is involved in regulating the body's balance of water, sodium, and other electrolytes, using these drugs can promote fluid retention and sometimes cause or worsen high blood pressure. Since cortisone is involved in maintaining normal levels of glucose sugar in the blood, long-term use may lead to elevated blood sugar or even diabetes.
It is possible that steroids may increase the rate of "hardening of the arteries," which could increase the risk of heart disease. This risk is probably much more significant if steroids are taken for more than a year, and if taken in high dose. By Theodore R. Theodore R. In-person and virtual physician appointments. Book online. Urgent Ortho Care. Same-day in-person or virtual appointments. Get care.
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Prednisolone isn't usually recommended in pregnancy unless the potential benefits outweigh the risks. Prednisolone has occasionally been linked to problems in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. High doses or long-term use can also affect the unborn baby's growth. You can usually take prednisolone while you're breastfeeding.
However, prednisolone can get into breast milk. If you're taking a high dose of prednisolone the baby may need to be monitored for side effects. For safety, it's usually recommended that you wait 3 to 4 hours after taking your dose of prednisolone before feeding your baby or expressing milk. There are many medicines that interfere with the way prednisolone works, or that increase the risk of side effects.
It's very important you check a medicine is safe to take with prednisolone before you start taking it. This includes some medicines that you buy over the counter like aspirin and anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen. There's very little information about taking herbal remedies and supplements with prednisolone. For safety, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you take any other medicines, including herbal remedies, vitamins or supplements. Steroids mimic the effects of hormones your body naturally produces in your adrenal glands.
The adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys. When prescribed in doses higher than your body's usual levels, steroids like prednisolone dampen inflammation. This can reduce the symptoms of inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis and asthma.
Steroids also damp down your immune system, which can help in autoimmune illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis , where your immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues. For other illnesses, you may not feel any better even though the medicine is helping you. This may be the case if you're taking prednisolone to stop your symptoms getting worse or to prevent a problem happening for example after an organ transplant. If you have to take prednisolone for more than a few weeks, the chances are that you will put on weight.
Prednisolone can make you hungrier and retain water, so it can be quite challenging to avoid weight gain. Try to eat well without increasing your portion sizes. Regular exercise will also help to keep your weight stable. Once you stop taking prednisolone, any issues around increased appetite or water retention should return to normal. It can be dangerous to stop taking prednisolone suddenly, especially if you have been on a high dose for a long time. These side effects are most likely to happen if you have taken prednisolone for more than a few weeks or you take more than 40mg daily.
Your doctor will probably want to reduce your dose gradually over several weeks to prevent these side effects. Do not stop taking prednisolone without talking to your doctor - you will need to reduce the dose gradually. Taking prednisolone for many months or years can have several harmful effects on your body.
It can lead to:. If you have to take prednisolone for a long time, there are steps you can take to stay as healthy as possible:. Taking prednisolone makes you more likely to catch infections such as flu , the common cold and chest infections. Keep away from people with an infectious disease, especially chickenpox or shingles. If you have never had these illnesses they could make you very ill.
Tell your doctor straight away if you come into contact with someone who has an infectious disease such as chickenpox or shingles. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a medicine to protect you. Taking prednisolone lowers your immune system. If you have a "live" vaccine, like the shingles vaccine, while you are taking prednisolone your immune system might not be able to handle it. This may lead to an infection. Inactive vaccinations, like the flu vaccine, are safe. If you are taking prednisolone for longer than 3 weeks, or you have been prescribed a high dose of more than 40mg daily, your doctor or pharmacist will give you a blue steroid treatment card.
The card is the size of a credit card and fits in your wallet or purse. It tells you how you can reduce the risks of side effects. It also gives details of your doctor, how much prednisolone you take and how long the treatment will last for. If you need any medical or dental treatment, show your blue steroid card to the doctor or dentist so they know that you are taking prednisolone.
For most health problems, these steroids are very similar to prednisolone in terms of how well they work and how safe they are. There's no firm evidence to suggest that taking prednisolone will reduce fertility in either men or women. However, speak to a pharmacist or your doctor before taking it if you're trying to get pregnant. Prednisolone will not affect the contraceptive pill or emergency contraception.
It's thought that real liquorice increases the amount of prednisolone in the body and also increases the risk of low potassium. Page last reviewed: 22 January Next review due: 22 January Prednisolone On this page About prednisolone Key facts Who can and can't take prednisolone How and when to take it Side effects How to cope with side effects Pregnancy and breastfeeding Cautions with other medicines Common questions.
About prednisolone Prednisolone is a type of medicine known as a corticosteroid or steroid. NHS coronavirus advice As long as you have no symptoms of coronavirus infection, carry on taking your prescribed steroid medicine as usual. Updated: 20 March Take prednisolone once a day in the morning so it doesn't keep you awake. The most common side effects of prednisolone are insomnia, weight gain, indigestion and sweating a lot. Taking prednisolone can make you more likely to get infections.
Tell your doctor if you're exposed to infectious illnesses like chickenpox or shingles. If you take prednisolone for more than 3 weeks, or you're on a high dose, you'll get a blue steroid card. Show this card to your doctor or dentist before any treatment, so they know you're taking prednisolone. Prednisolone can cause extra side effects if you stop taking it suddenly. Do not stop taking prednisolone if you've been on it for more than 3 weeks or have taken high doses more than 40mg for more than 1 week.
It's also called by the brand names Deltacortril, Deltastab, Dilacort and Pevanti. Prednisolone can be taken by adults and children. Prednisolone isn't suitable for some people. Tell your doctor before starting the medicine if you: have had an allergic reaction to prednisolone or any other medicine have an infection including eye infections are trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or you are breastfeeding have recently been in contact with someone with shingles , chickenpox or measles have recently had, or are about to have, any vaccinations Make sure your doctor is aware if you have: had liver problems had mental health problems either you or close family members any unhealed wounds heart failure or have had a recent heart attack high blood pressure diabetes epilepsy glaucoma underactive thyroid osteoporosis thinning bones a stomach ulcer.
It's important to take prednisolone as your doctor has advised. Sometimes, you may be advised to take prednisolone on alternate days only. How much will I take? Will my dose go up or down? Your dose may go up or down. Once your illness starts to get better, it's likely that your dose will go down.
Your dose may go up if your illness gets worse. What if I forget to take it? Do not take a double dose to make up for a forgotten one. What if I take too much? Taking too many prednisolone tablets by accident is unlikely to harm you. If you're worried, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Common side effects Common side effects happen in more than 1 in people. Keep taking the medicine, but tell your doctor if they bother you or don't go away: weight gain indigestion sleep problems restlessness sweating a lot Serious side effects You are more likely to have a serious side effect if you take a higher dose more than 20mg daily of prednisolone or if you have been taking it for more than a few weeks.
Information: You can report any suspected side effect to the UK safety scheme. Stunted growth in children Long periods of prednisolone treatment can slow down the normal growth of children and teenagers. Talk to your doctor about the risks of giving prednisolone to your child if you are concerned.
What to do about: weight gain - try to eat well without increasing your portion sizes so you don't gain too much weight. It may also help if you avoid rich or spicy food while you're taking this medicine. And keep loved ones in the loop so they can give you any extra support you need.
Most steroid side effects only occur when people take prednisone long-term. For non-chronic issues, you might take it only for a couple of weeks. Ford explains. Then the prednisone stays in your system long enough at lower levels so the whole reaction can turn itself off. For longer-term prescriptions, doctors may taper down dosages gradually to get them as low as possible without the return of symptoms.
The right prednisone dosage helps your body fire on all cylinders and reduces potential side effects. Ford cautions. See how to counteract eight common prednisone side effects, including fluid retention, and learn how proper prednisone dosages can help. Learn more about vaccine availability. Advertising Policy. You have successfully subscribed to our newsletter. Related Articles. Trending Topics. Share this article via email with one or more people using the form below.
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