Prednisone is a drug your rheumatologist may prescribe for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriasis, and other inflammatory conditions. It is a corticosteroid that can reduce inflammation in the body, letting patients reduce symptoms and improve their quality of life. However, prednisone side effects are important to consider as part of your treatment plan.
In this article, we’ll talk about prednisone, how it works, and why doctors prescribe it for certain conditions. Next, we’ll address the side effects of prednisone you should be aware of. Finally, we’ll let you know when you should see a doctor for any prednisone side effects you experience.
Prednisone is a type of corticosteroid – a drug that reduces inflammation. It is “first-line” therapy for most conditions in which it is prescribed, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and other autoimmune diseases.
Each cell in the body has receptors for steroid hormones, including cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that the adrenal glands naturally produce and release. It helps regulate immune system function and metabolism in the body.
Prednisone, just like other types of corticosteroids, works by attaching to receptors sensitive to cortisol in cells throughout the body. They then prevent your immune system from triggering an inflammatory response.
Since it is so effective at interrupting inflammatory processes, prednisone is one of the most widely used treatments for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. What’s more, many doctors have found that prednisone works well to treat conditions such as COPD, asthma, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
Prednisone brings significant benefits to the people who take it as prescribed by a qualified rheumatologist. However, side effects are an important consideration. The most common side effects include:
High blood glucose. Prednisone can cause an increase in blood sugar (hyperglycemia) levels in the body. This is particularly problematic for people with diabetes. If you have diabetes, your physician will often prescribe metformin to help keep your blood sugar levels under control.
Bone loss. Most people do not experience significant bone loss from prednisone, but some develop a condition known as secondary osteoporosis. Secondary osteoporosis is a condition that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the bones, causing them to weaken. The time it takes for bones to return to normal after discontinuing use of prednisone varies from person to person.
Cataracts/glaucoma/dry eyes. Cataracts and glaucoma are both conditions associated with increased pressure in the eye. Prednisone can increase ocular (eye) pressure, leading to blurred vision, vision loss or even blindness without prompt treatment. Dry eyes and difficulty seeing in low light are also common side effects of taking prednisone.
Weight gain. Steroids like prednisone can cause you to gain weight. Many patients see a significant increase in appetite while taking prednisone. Improper diet and exercise can also lead to weight gain while taking prednisone.
Acne. Prednisone can cause acne breakouts in patients who normally do not experience acne, or exacerbate breakouts in people who usually struggle with acne.
You should discuss the side effects of prednisone with your doctor before you begin taking it as prescribed. For example, if you have diabetes, pre-existing cataracts or a tendency for weight gain, make sure you communicate with your rheumatologist.
Knowing prednisone side effects are important to your overall health and wellbeing. If you experience severe or debilitating side effects or think you may be experiencing an allergic reaction to prednisone, see your doctor right away.
Rheumatology Clinic of Houston is your rheumatology specialist in Tomball, TX. Dr. Rahman has the expertise and experience necessary to treat patients with rheumatoid conditions with a high-quality standard of care. Contact us at (832) 237-8585 to schedule your appointment.