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What are corticosteroids and their side effects

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Currently, several disorders are treated with drugs that include corticosteroids or corticosteroids, hormones that play an essential role in various body processes, and whose anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects improve the state of these diseases, especially in those that are not curable. It is necessary to keep a check on the symptoms.

Despite offering health benefits to those who suffer from a disorder, it is also known that it is possible to present specific negative symptoms due to its use, so some people prefer not to follow a treatment that includes these hormones; however, if the doctor’s precise instructions are followed, the risks are lower. If you are interested in having more information about corticosteroids and their side effects, we invite you to read the following FastlyHealarticle.

What are corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are hormones that make up the group of steroids and are naturally secreted in the body through the adrenal cortex of the adrenal glands, which are located just in the upper part of the kidneys. These hormones can be classified into glucocorticoids, such as cortisol, and mineralocorticoids, including aldosterone.

In the body, they perform essential functions to stay healthy; since corticosteroids are involved in physiological processes such as the processing and incorporation of carbohydrates that are acquired from food, in the disintegration of proteins to a more straightforward form for their absorption, they regulate the number of electrolytes in the plasma and maintain the immune system and bone development in the indicated state. They also intervene in various alterations, such as inflammation, stress, and sodium retention in the kidneys.

What are corticosteroids used for?

These hormones have been artificially synthesized to include them in various pharmacological products, so it is possible to find them in multiple presentations in the different routes of administration, both oral, parenteral, topical, and even inhalation. The most commonly used drugs are hydrocortisone, dexamethasone, prednisone, beclomethasone, and betamethasone.

Thanks to the effect of corticosteroids in the body, mainly because they are anti-inflammatory, vasoconstrictor, and immunosuppressive, they are used to a great extent to treat numerous pathologies, for example:

  • Autoimmune: lupus erythematosus and arthritis.
  • Respiratory: asthma, acute bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD.
  • Dermatological: dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis.
  • Ophthalmological: seasonal allergies, uveitis, and conjunctivitis.
  • Renal: nephrotic syndrome and glomerulonephritis.
  • Gastrointestinal: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • Neoplastic.
  • Adrenal insufficiency: Addison’s disease.

On the other hand, it can counteract post-chemotherapy symptoms, such as vomiting and nausea. It is also used in the treatment of septic shock, tendinopathy, low back pain, and spinal cord injuries, and by affecting the immune system, it helps to reduce the probability of rejection of a transplanted organ.

Corticosteroid treatments

Now that we know what corticosteroids are and what they are used for, it is essential to point out that drugs that contain some derivative of corticosteroids have a substantial effect on the body, which is why their administration should only be indicated by the doctor, and always under your supervision for the duration of treatment.

Likewise, depending on the condition suffered, its degree of affectation and the general state of health of the person will be the treatment granted, in which the specialist will prescribe the time in which the hormones are supplied, the route of administration, the type of medicine and the dose of it. It is important not to self-medicate, alter the amount, or suspend or restart its use without consulting the doctor since complications or the presence of side effects could be generated.

Corticosteroid treatment is usually not longer than six months, the time allowed only in certain diseases. In general, its use is not prescribed for prolonged or continuous periods, being only a few days for disorders such as low back pain, whose initial dose is the maximum and gradually decreases until the end of the treatment; whereas, in emergency circumstances, it is possible to opt for fast-onset corticosteroid products such as injections.

On the other hand, if for any reason it is necessary to terminate the treatment early, it is essential to follow the doctor’s instructions to decrease the dose gradually since the abrupt suspension of the administration of corticosteroids can alter or interrupt specific vital processes, for example, cause a life-threatening crisis of acute adrenal insufficiency.

Corticosteroids: side effects

As with any medicine, there is a risk of side effects from corticosteroids, which are linked to the type of drug and especially to the time used and the dose. Therefore, not all products with these hormones can cause the same reactions.

The longer one is exposed to corticosteroid drugs and at high doses, the greater the probability of developing various adverse reactions, sometimes profound alterations; on the contrary, in the short term, the negative symptoms are frequently mild, such as indigestion. Dizziness or cramps. For this reason, it is essential to always stay under medical supervision and tell the specialist if you notice any discomfort.

Considering the route of administration, several of the adverse symptoms can be classified, although some of these may present in one or more of how it is delivered. Among the side effects of corticosteroids are:

  • Oral route: There are more excellent secondary reactions because the effect spreads throughout the body. In the short term, the most common are fluid retention, high blood pressure, insomnia, nervousness, increased body weight, increased fat deposits, glaucoma, mood swings, and depression. While in the long term, it could cause menstrual irregularity, predisposition to infections, arteriosclerosis, easy bruising, slow healing, stretch marks, gastritis, pancreatitis, bone decalcification, joint disorders, cataracts, delirium, increased blood glucose, and even develop diabetes.
  • Parenteral route: side effects are limited to the area near the puncture, especially pain, infection, changes in skin pigmentation, and reduction in the thickness of non-bone tissue, such as muscle, fat, or blood vessels.
  • Inhaled route: hoarseness and oral candidiasis.
  • Topical use: acne, red spots, and thinning of the skin from prolonged use.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to What are corticosteroids and their side effects , we recommend that you enter our category of Medication and medical tests.

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