Uses, Benefits and Side Effects of Corticosteroids.
Corticosteroids are a class of steroids that provide effective treatment against medical conditions such as skin allergies, asthma, hay fever, and other seasonal allergies. Corticosteroids are produced both naturally and artificially. In the human body, they are essentially produced in the cortex region of adrenal glands. Corticosteroids play an important role in maintaining a balanced metabolism and play a vital role in lowering inflammation.
How Do Corticosteroids Work?
When any infectious microorganism or any foreign substance enters the body, its immune response activates the white blood cells. It releases certain chemicals, which protect the body against such foreign substances. This causes inflammation. Steroids suppress the immune system by reducing the production of chemicals in response to foreign substances. Therefore, they act by reducing the inflammation and swelling by suppressing chemical production. Inflammation often causes severe damage to the body and organ tissues. They essentially prevent such tissue damage and provide rapid relief.
Benefits of Corticosteroids
Due to their anti-inflammatory nature, steroids provide effective and quick relief in several medical conditions, including asthma, hay fever, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, seasonal allergies, severe skin allergies, and bronchitis. Corticosteroids reduce the susceptibility of organ rejection by suppressing the immune system. Similarly, they also provide relief in asthma and other seasonal allergies by reducing inflammation and dilating the bronchus.
Corticosteroids also reduce inflammation in people with autoimmune diseases. Similarly, they are also effective in treating other unprecedented inflammation and swellings caused due to the body’s autoimmune response. They are also sometimes prescribed to minimize symptoms following chemotherapy, such as vomiting, nausea, and decreased appetite.
Corticosteroids are particularly useful in treating lupus, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system cannot differentiate between healthy cells and toxic foreign substances. This results in increased inflammation and breakdown of the body’s healthy cells. Steroids can effectively reduce the inflammation and pain in people who have lupus.
Side Effects of Corticosteroids
There is the potential of several side effects, and the side effects are not the same for every patient. Some patients might experience more severe side effects than others. These side effects usually occur due to the use of it over a prolonged period or overdosage. Some of these side effects include:
- High blood pressure,
- Irregular heartbeats (palpitations),
- Muscle weakness,
- Slow healing of wounds,
- Loss of appetite,
- Ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract,
- Weight gain,
- Menstrual irregularity,
- Blurred vision,
- Stunted growth in children,
- Increased susceptibility to infections,
- Increased growth of body hair.
Normal Dosage of Corticosteroids
Corticosteroids are usually given in various forms, depending on the degree of effectiveness for the patient, as well as the disease to be treated. They can be given in the form of pills, liquids, intravenous substances, nasal sprays, skin creams, inhalers, and shots.
The normal dosage varies in each case and depends upon several factors, including:
- Type of disease
- Intensity of disease
- The autoimmune response of the patient
- Form of corticosteroid being given
Your doctor will recommend an accurate dosage after a thorough medical examination and any other testing required.
As stated earlier, corticosteroids can have several side effects, especially in the case of overdosage. Therefore, it is recommended to always use it according to the amounts specified by the doctor. Furthermore, these should only be used for the period prescribed by the doctor. If any side effect is observed, consult your doctor right away. Always read the drug’s prescriptions and consult your doctor about any side effects stated in the prescription.
Corticosteroids also have a susceptibility to interfering with any other medications being taken. Therefore, we highly recommend always providing your doctor with a complete medical history. It would be best if you always inform your doctor about any medications being taken by the patient to prevent its side effects.
Treatment of Overdose
If any person has overdosed on corticosteroids, medical assistance should be sought as soon as possible. Visit your doctor right away. In case of any severe reaction, call 911 for a medical emergency. Any delay in seeking medical help will decrease the chances of survival for the patient.
Provide details to your doctor regarding the corticosteroid taken, the amount swallowed, the medical condition for which the medicine was taken, and any other information required by the doctor. Your doctor may perform some tests, including ECG, blood test, or urine test, before treating the overdosage.
Storage of Corticosteroids
Store corticosteroids away from direct heat, moisture, or sunlight. Always store them in a closed container at room temperature. Keep the corticosteroids out of reach of children. Never store or keep any expired medicine to prevent any accidental intake. Follow any other instructions provided by the pharmaceutical company. Store the drops and creams either in the refrigerator (do not freeze), or as instructed by the pharmaceutical company.
Disposal of Corticosteroids
Any unwanted or expired medicine should be disposed of immediately to prevent any accidental intake of the medicine. Pharmaceutical companies often provide guidelines about the safe disposal of medicines. If no instruction is provided, talk to your physician or pharmacist for appropriate corticosteroids disposal methods. Avoid disposing of any medication directly into the garbage or flushing down the toilet.
Corticosteroids have unlimited benefits in medicine. They provide quick and effective relief and are often the only treatment method, especially in cases of inflammation caused due to severe seasonal allergies or asthma. However, like all other medications, they have their side effects as well. Therefore, corticosteroids should always be used only after recommendations and upon the instructions of the doctor. Furthermore, these should be properly stored and disposed of appropriately to prevent any adversity.
Written by: Madiha Ather Hashmi (July 15, 2020)
- IBM Micromedex (2020). “Corticosteroid (Oral Route, Parenteral Route)”. IBM Watson Health.
- Danielle Dresden (2020). “What to know about corticosteroids”. Healthline Media.
- Cleveland Clinic Medical Professional (2020). “Corticosteroids”. Cleveland Clinic.
- Ana Gotter (2018). “Corticosteroids: What Are They?”. Healthline Media.
- Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD (2021). “Corticosteroids Drugs: Systemic, Oral, Injections, and Types”. MedicineNet.
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Last Updated on February 1, 2021