Prednisone is one of those steroids that’s fairly well known within the community, for good and bad things. I myself had heard more bad things than good things, so hearing that I would be going on it worked up some serious anxiety within me. The word steroids in general is such a scary word.
So what is it? What does it do? Why does it work? What are the side effects you should be alert for?
This is your quick cheat sheet to getting quick facts! I spent a lot of time browsing through the internet, going through my own prescription info packet, and looking through books to get information and this is all my research complied into a little guide for you. Obviously these are not my opinions or facts- if you want to find more about where I looked into everything, scroll down to the bottom to find the references!
What is it?
Prednisone is known as a corticosteriod, or steroid for short. This drug is an anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressant designed to stop or slow down the production of cortisol in your body. As a result, it obviously reduces inflammation in your body but in turn lowers your immune system by interfering with chemicals in your body that can cause inflammation.
How does it work for IBD?
When corticosteroids are prescribed in doses that exceed your body’s normal amount of cortisol released, inflammation in your body is reduced. This is because one of cortisol’s functions in your body is to suppress your immune system for a short period of time and help stop your body from attacking itself, which generally is why inflammation and auto-immunune diseases begin in the first place.
Prednisone is designed to be taken for a short period of time to get patients in a remission state (having a lack or no symptoms), however in my experience I have met many people who have been on and off it for years! The fear of being on it for longer periods of time is the many adverse effects it can have on your body and the dependancy your body can begin to develop.
Generally people start off with a high loading dose of Prednisone, so higher than the levels being released in your body regularly, to help quickly stop inflammation. Patients are then usually instructed to slowly taper off of Prednisone and in the mean time sometimes also begin their next treatment option designed to help keep them in remission.
What are the Side Effects?
Everyone reacts differently to Prednisone and side effects depend on the reason you’re taking them, how much you are taking, and the length of time you are taking it for, so this list is a give or take!
Common Side Effects:
- Thinning Skin
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight Gain
- Mood changes
- Increased appetite
- Dry Skin
- Changes in location of body fat (Moonface is part of this!)
- High Blood Sugar
- Irregular Periods
Serious Side Effects (always call your doctor to discuss these symptoms. Better to be safe than sorry!)
- Severe allergic reactions (swelling of lips or tongue, skin rash, hives)
- Changes in eye vision
- Eye pain
- Swelling of ankles or feet
- Cushing’s Syndrome
- Abnormal Liver Function Tests (This is why regular bloodwork is important)
- Blood clots
- High blood pressure
- Low Potassium
- Severe changes in mood (depression, changes in personality, extreme changes in happiness and sadness, ect.)
- Bloody, tarry stools
- Coughing up blood
What to do before taking this medication?
One big warning I got was not to take this medication if I had any fungal infections, which makes sense. It’s suppresses your immune system, so now its that much harder to fight off ailments and that much easier to get sick! But there are also other things about your medical history you should tell your doctor before beginning! This includes:
- liver disease
- kidney disease
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- low potassium
- thyroid disorders
- history of malaria
- glaucoma, cataracts
- muscle disorders
- mental illness
Steroid Withdrawal Symptoms
Steroids cannot be stopped suddenly after a certain amount of time has passed, which is why patients taper off the drug slowly. Tapering allows your body to adjust to the new cortisol levels, while trying to prevent your body from displaying withdrawal symptoms. Although the ultimate aim is to avoid these symptoms, they still can possibly happen so it’s important to be aware of this and communicate with your doctor if it’s too much for you! Always be honest with yourself and your doctor!
Honestly, when I started doing my research on Prednisone I was so overwhelmed. Some people loved it and called it the miracle drug and other people swore it was a pill created by Satan himself. My best advice? Try it. See how it goes. If it works, hooray. If not, talk to your doctor and find alternative solutions. Whatever you decide, it’s so important to be educated and know what to expect so you aren’t blind sided and so you know what to look for and what kind of questions to ask. This is your body. You are the one who has to wake up every single day and deal with it, so ultimately it’s up to you to decide if the risks are outweighed by the benefits or vice versa. So far for me it seems to be working, but again its a give and take! There’s so many other symptoms not mentioned here or in my last post that I’m just starting to understand including how this drug effects your intimate relationships and your mental health! (I will definitely be updating you on this in a separate post). It’s a hard adjustment for yourself as well as other people around you.
But hopefully this quick little guide helps you get started on your own research!