Rheumatoid arthritis treatment with corticosteroids, such as prednisone methylprednisolone, are a very effective treatment for RA. They are effective because they have strong anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive influences.
Unfortunately, they also carry a risk of side effects that can be severe.
The risk of side effects is increased with the duration of treatment. Doctors try to use this rheumatoid arthritis treatment in short bursts.
Chronic treatment with corticosteroids is reserved for people with severe RA symptoms.
Corticosteroid Side Effects
Injected steroids are associated with fewer side effects than are preparations that are taken orally.
This is because when they are taken orally they cause a high level of the steroids circulating in your blood. This gives them a strong influence in many different areas of your body.
Steroid medications may
make osteoporosis worse.
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When the medication is injected into a joint it is gradually absorbed and results in very low levels of the steroid circulating in your blood. This reduces its impact and the risk of side effects.
Corticosteroid Medications for Rheumatoid Arthritis
come with a risk of significant side effects
Corticosteroid medications such as methylprednisolone and prednisone are a very effective rheumatoid arthritis treatment. Unfortunately, they also can have side effects with severe consequences in some people with other pre-existing conditions.
Oral Corticosteroids Risks
Weight Gain...Increase Blood Pressure...Increased Risk of Cataracts Glaucoma...Thin Skin...Avascular Necrosis...Osteoporosis
Cushing's Syndrome...Increased Blood Sugar
Weight gain is a common side effect when taking oral steroids such as prednisone. This occurs because steroids cause your body to retain fluid. You may also experience swelling in your feet and ankles.
Retaining fluid puts an additional load on your heart. This may be a dangerous side effect for people with congestive heart failure.
Steroid medications can give you your
life back but there are risks.
Hypertension and Hyperglycemia
Oral steroids mimic the affects of cortisol your body's natural stress hormone. Cortisol prepares your body for "fight or flight" by increasing your blood sugar and increasing your blood pressure.
Elevated levels of blood sugar can be dangerous for people with diabetes who already have difficulty controlling their blood sugar.
Cataracts and Glaucoma
Corticosteroids treatments when taken orally for long periods of time may lead to cloudiness of one or both of the lenses in your eyes. It may also cause increased pressure within your eye.
Chronic treatment with oral steroid preparations often leads to thinning of the skin and poor wound healing. There may also be easy bruising and bleeding underneath the skin.
Large doses of steroids when taken for long periods of time may cause areas of bone to lose their blood supply and die. This can occur in any area of your body but seems to occur most in and around one or both hips.
Steroid medications have been shown to cause a thinning of your bones and increased risk of fractures. This is more common in women who are already more susceptible to osteoporosis than men.
Increased fat deposits in the abdomen, face, and on the back of your neck are a common side effect of oral steroids. This contributes to the weight gain, and causes round face and "buffalo hump" on the back of your neck.
Bottom Line on Steroid Medications
Corticosteroids can be very effective but there are side effects that you will want to discuss with your doctor.