What are Steroids ?
Steroids or corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory drugs. They usually are synthetic forms of cortisone, which is a hormone found naturally present in your adrenal glands. Corticosteroids are available in various forms, and these medications can be injected or taken orally. You can also get them in the form of ointment or skin cream that can be used to treat rashes. Doctors often prescribe steroids to treat arthritis, allergies, asthma and other diseases.
Can Steroids Cause Side Effects ?
Steroids are very helpful in relieving pain, rheumatic diseases, inflammatory arthritis, and in certain cases, they can also prove to be life-saving. However, steroids can even result in various side effects. The extent of these side effects is generally dependent on the kind of dosage and the length of usage. The higher the dose and the longer the time you take it, brighter will be the chances of you experiencing the side effects. If you are on low steroid doses then the chances of serious side effects are also narrow, particularly if you take them with precautions and follow the doctor’s prescription carefully.
Once you start reading about the side effects of steroids it can make you feel uncomfortable about using them at all. But you need to know that though there are risks involved, there are many people who are taking steroids as prescribed, and they experience little to no side effects at all, and in fact experience great relief from the problems for which they are taking steroids. Furthermore, you can also take certain measures to prevent the side-effects to a good extent. If you are now thinking what are the side effects of steroids? how to prevent side effects from steroids? Then you just need to continue reading and discover your answers.
Side Effects of Steroids and Prevention Tips:
If you take steroids for a long time then it can have a negative impact on your immune system, weaken it, and thus increases your chances of inviting infections.
Prevention tip: For as long as you will be on steroids start taking a yearly flu shot. If you experience any signs of infection like a continuous cough, high fever, and pain during urination, then consult your doctor immediately.
Steroid therapy can cause thinning of bones, and increase the risks of a fracture. Before the beginning of the therapy, many doctors will request their patients to have a bone density test done, particularly if they plan to offer you a high steroid dose. This test will again be done in the future to decide what measures can be taken if there is a bone density loss.
Prevention tip: Start eating lots of milk products like yogurt and cheese, and also calcium supplements to make sure your daily intake of calcium if 1500mg. Throughout your steroid therapy, you must take calcium without fail. Also, take a multivitamin as it helps absorb calcium better. As alcohol consumption or smoking can increases chances of osteoporosis, you must try to avoid them completely.
3. Gastrointestinal ulcers
While on steroids, the chances of you developing gastrointestinal bleeding or ulcers are high, particularly if you are taking the medication together with NSAIDs like aspirin or ibuprofen.
Prevention tip: Take the steroid after you have had a meal or together with an antacid as this may help reduce the irritation your stomach will experience. If you suffer from heartburn frequently then tell your doctor about it, as he/she may prescribe you an acid-reducing medication.
You may find it difficult to get a peaceful sleep when you are on the steroid drugs, particularly if you need to take it during the evening.
Prevention tip: Ask your doctor if it is possible to take the drug in the morning. Try to maintain a regular schedule for getting into bed, as that will help prepare you for sleep. Make sure the room you sleep in is dark, cool, and free of noise. Try to meditate or practice relaxation exercises before you go to bed. If none of these seem to help, then talk to your doctor.
5. Weight gain
Steroids have an effect on your metabolism and the way fat is deposited in your body. This may make you feel more hungry and can make you gain weight, with extra fat being deposited particularly in your abdomen area.
Prevention tip: Exercise regularly and be watchful of what you eat. At the same time, do not let weight gain have an effect on your self-esteem. Remember that you will get rid of the extra weight, and your stomach will return to its normal size, within about six months after you stop taking steroids.
6. Changes in mood
If you have been prescribed higher doses, more than 30 mg per day, then steroids can also have an impact on your mood. You may feel depressed, anxious, or irritable.
Prevention tip: You being aware of this fact will itself help you a lot. If your doctor can reduce the doses, then it will lessen this side effect, but if you must take high doses then including another medication may help solve the problem. Also, let your family and friends know about the fact that you are on steroids, and then they will not react adversely even if you respond in a strange way.
7. Eye problems
Steroids may cause glaucoma or cataracts, and if they are already present, they may get worse.
Prevention tip: You should visit your ophthalmologist and let them know you are on steroids. Thereafter you may have to visit your ophthalmologist on a regular basis so that they can check for any problems, and decide a treatment on time.
Being aware of the side effects that steroids may cause is actually a blessing in disguise. Things will not come as a shock to you, and you know what exactly you need to do to prevent and/or lessen the side effects you may experience. Also, be very careful of the doses you take. Just in trying to cure your problem faster, never increase the doses more than you have been prescribed, as it will only end up harming you more.