Glucocorticoids Print Page
What are glucocorticoids?
- Glucocorticoids are also known as corticosteroids, or just steroids.
- They are synthetic products which mimic cortisol, the body’s naturally occurring glucocorticoid made in the adrenal cortex.
- Glucocorticoids should not be confused with the type of performance enhancing steroids some athletes have used.
What are different types of glucocorticoids?
- Prednisone is the most common type taken by mouth. It usually comes in 1mg, 5mg, and 50mg tablets.
How do glucocorticoids work?
- Glucocorticoids can suppress and modulate the body’s immune system, making them a powerful option in the treatment for some autoimmune diseases.
What are some conditions that are treated with glucocorticoids?
- In some circumstances, oral glucocorticoids may be appropriate for the treatment of inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, as well as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE, or Lupus).
- Glucocorticoids are always given early in the treatment for most types of vasculitis and myositis. They are also the primary treatment for Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR).
How soon will I feel the effects of glucocorticoids?
- Oral prednisone can begin to have an effect as early as 30 minutes after administration.
What are the possible side effects of taking Prednisone (oral glucocorticoids)?
- Poor sleep
- Increasing weight & Increasing appetite
- Mood changes or disrupted thinking
- Thinning of the skin, Weaker muscles
- Disruption of the body’s own ability to make cortisol
- Increased risk of developing stomach ulcers, diabetes, glaucoma, cataracts, hypertension and heart disease
- Increased risk of developing serious infections
- Increased risk of developing osteoporosis and bone fractures
Is there anything I can do to reduce these side effects?
- Discuss with your doctor to ensure you are always on the lowest dose possible with shortest duration to effectively and safely treat your condition. Different conditions require different dose regimens.
- Take your prednisone in the morning, not the evening. This is similar to the body’s natural cortisol production and may decrease any negative effects on sleep.
- While prednisone can cause weight gain, try to control the urge to increase your caloric intake..
- Take Calcium 500mg twice daily and Vitamin D 1000 units daily for bone protection, in addition to regular physical activity. Discuss with your doctor what you should do to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Let your doctor know if you are at increased risk for any diseases, particularly diabetes, so you can be monitored closely.
- Make sure you follow your doctor’s advice on how to safely reduce your prednisone dose. It can be very dangerous to suddenly stop prednisone.
What should I do if I miss a dose? How do I safely stop glucocorticoids?
- If you miss your dose, you can take it as soon as you remember it. If you forget entirely, do not take an extra dose the next day; just resume your regular dose.
- Glucocorticoids cannot be stopped suddenly, particularly for those patients who have been taking them for greater than 2 weeks. This can be very dangerous to your health.
- Always consult with your physician to determine a safe and effective strategy to stop your steroids.
For complete information about glucocorticoids, visit AlbertaRheumatology.com and consult your physician.