Common Steroid Side Effects
→ Prednisone is commonly used to treat autoimmune disorders. The benefits of it are that it is fast-acting (takes effect within hours) and is frequently effective for bringing a flare to a speedy halt in many autoimmune disorders. While the plus side is the good news, prednisone has an “evil” side to it! It can cause unpleasant and damaging side effects to the body, and potentially dangerous. For this post I use prednisone as the drug but the info here is equally applicable to solumedrol, depomedrol and other brands of therapeutic steroids prescribed by a doctor.
Here I am going to list some of the more common side effects.
- Weight gain. You can plan on gaining weight while on prednisone. It also has the tendency to redistribute body fat such that a person ends up appearing “fatter” than they actually are. For many people this effect is less noticed at lower doses of prednisone.
- Sweating. Sudden, apparently random sweatng. It can be profuse. for me I have noticed a tendency to break ou tin a sweat a couple of hours after taking prednisone.
- Insomnia. For me, this is the most annoying side-effect, particularly at higher doses. It is hard to sleep. I wind up taking melatonin at night and it seems to help a bit.
- Neurological Effects. This tends to happen to me at higher doses (greater than 40 mg/day) In particular, sudden bouts of shaky hands. This can be severe, and you should talk to your doctor if you develop odd neurological effects from using prednisone.
- cataracts. Your chances of developing cataracts are greatly increased if you are on prednisone.
- osteoporosis Bone loss is a big problem with prednisone, especially at higher doses and long term use. This can be corrected for to an extent with medication.
- Immunosuppression After you have been on prednisone for a while, it will begin to suppress your immune system. You need to be more careful of opportunistic infections.
- There are more, the list is long, but these are the more common side effects of prednisone use.
- In general, side effects will be worse at higher doses and may get worse with chronic use over time.
- Everybody is a little different, and some people will experience more or fewer side effects.
- It is a good idea to go to the drug manufacturers web site for the fact sheet for prednisone and read it.
- The essence of all of this is that prednisone can be a wonder drug in terms of getting fast relief from a flaring autoimmune disorder, but is not really a good drug to be on long term unless there is no other option.
- It basically ages your body rapidly, and you become progressively weaker in time, and there is a looming toxicity that increases with long term use.
- It is a good idea to not stay on it any longer than you must.
Author’s Personal Note: I have a long-standing love-hate thing relationship with prednisone. I love what prednisone does for me, but I hate what prednisone does to me. As a “rescue” medication it is the bomb! I’m glad to have it as a tool to use.