Side effects on steroids

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

Steroids are divided into two major types. Anabolic steroids are what body builders have been accused of taking.

These drugs, in addition to other effects, build muscle tissue.

The other group, catabolic steroids, are used to treat inflammation. These drugs actually break down tissue.

Adrenal glands manufacture glucocorticoids (steroids). Taking steroids orally or intravenously can reduce the ability of the person’s own adrenal glands to continue to manufacture glucocorticoids.

Without the ability to increase steroid production in the face of stressors such as injury, infection, and surgery, a patient can go into shock.

The chances of the adrenal glands being suppressed increase as the dose of “outside” steroid exceeds the average daily equivalent output of the adrenal glands which is about 5.0-7.5 mg prednisone, therapy continues for more than a few weeks or months, doses are given late in the day or in split doses, or long-acting corticosteroid preparations are used.

Taking steroids on an alternate day (every other day) schedule lessens the chance of adrenal insufficiency but does not eliminate it.

Other side-effects include:

• Increased risk of bacterial or opportunistic infections such as fungi, tuberculosis, pneumocystis carinii
• Elevated blood sugar
• Fat distribution changes leading to moon face, buffalo hump
• Elevated blood lipids
• Aggravation of hypertension
• Electrolyte abnormalities such as low blood potassium
• Fluid retention leading to edema
• Easy bruisibility
• Increased body hair
• Increased sweating
• Purple stretch marks
• Impaired wound healing
• Glaucoma
• Cataracts
• Muscle wasting
• Stomach ulcers
• Pancreatitis
• Accelerated hardening of the arteries
• Osteonecrosis (bone death)
• Psychiatric disturbance
• Insomnia
• Bowel perforation
• Masking of infection

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