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Corticosteroids: All You Need To Know About It

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Corticosteroid is a type of steroid hormone that is mostly regarded as an anti-inflammatory drug.

It may be produced synthetically while its counterpart, the cortisol hormone, is manufactured in the adrenal cortex of the adrenal gland.

Due to their potent immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory properties, corticosteroids are widely used in the treatment of illnesses affecting the immune system as well as inflammation.

These drugs might have numerous side effects when used in therapeutic quantities to reduce inflammation or allergic reactions because their glucocorticoid activity is immensely high.

Today, in this article we are going to have a look at all about corticosteroids.

What Is Corticosteroid?

Corticosteroids are the drugs that imitate[1] the hormone cortisol. The cortisol hormone, also known as the stress hormone, is released in response to stress.

It is naturally created in the adrenal gland of a healthy individual. Corticosteroids suppress the immune system[2] and reduce inflammation[3].

Excessive inflammation is very harmful to the body and results in pain, swelling, and redness if left untreated.

Autoimmune diseases[4], skin issues, arthritis, and asthma are a few conditions that are treated with corticosteroids, which are synthetically produced medicines.

This drug could also be involved in the body’s bone production, blood pressure management, inflammation, and metabolism.

How Do Corticosteroids Function?

Corticosteroids target the mechanism of the body’s inflammatory system. Discomfort, swelling, warmth, and redness may all be symptoms of inflammation.

Inflammation is an essential natural reaction to invading pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria, but sometimes, it could also happen inappropriately wherein it causes harm to the body.

To prevent unwanted inflammation, corticosteroids work by regulating the immune system, which is in charge of triggering inflammatory responses. As a result, corticosteroids help to lessen the extent of tissue damage.

Corticosteroids may also suppress immune system activity by targeting specific white blood cells with their pathways. Through this, white blood cells could experience a range of impacts.

There is sufficient proof that corticosteroids could kill or suppress B cells, which in turn may produce a major impact on the generation of antibodies.

White blood cells could adhere to the walls of blood vessels. Corticosteroids interfere with the white blood cells, thus impairing the inflammatory response[5] by preventing them from reaching the infected tissue.

Although it is not clear how corticosteroids could cause such strong anti-inflammatory responses, they have a significant impact on many aspects of inflammation.

Types Of Corticosteroids

Methylprednisolone, prednisolone, prednisone[6], hydrocortisone, and cortisone are some of the corticosteroids that are frequently administered.

Except for topical steroids like over-the-counter nasal sprays and hydrocortisone, the majority of corticosteroids need to be obtained with a prescription.

How To Administer Corticosteroids?

Corticosteroids could be administered in the following ways[7]:

  • Inhalation (into the lungs or nose)
  • Intra-articularly (by injecting into joint areas)
  • Intramuscularly (by injecting into muscles)
  • Intravenously (by injecting into veins)
  • Topically (to the eyes or skin)

Side Effects Of Corticosteroids

Side effects of corticosteroids are quite a lot, ranging[7] from minor to severe. When corticosteroids are taken for longer durations or at higher doses, the adverse effects become more noticeable.

The following adverse effects of corticosteroids are only briefly listed in this section. Some most common side effects are:

  • Cataracts[8]
  • Easy bruising of the skin and thinning[9]
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Retention of fluid and sodium in the body
  • High[10] blood pressure
  • Weight gain
  • Headache
  • Loss of potassium
  • Muscle weakness
  • Glaucoma[11]
  • Slow wound healing
  • Puffiness of the face
  • Facial hair growth

Risk Of Corticosteroids

Even though corticosteroids come with potential hazards, they may relieve inflammation and pain when used in small doses.

They might be harmful if used in excessive doses or regularly for the same reasons they are effective at reducing inflammation and pain.

Corticosteroids prevent overreactions of the immune system that lead to pain and inflammation by suppressing the production of white blood cells and the immune system.

But an important factor to note is that histamine reactions to inflammation and allergens are natural defense mechanisms of the body against different immune system assaults and infections.

Pain is an essential signal to your body to take it easy. Therefore, further harm could result if the body’s natural ability to protect itself is suppressed.

Also, keep in mind that corticosteroid medications are not intended to be a permanent remedy for tissue injuries.

Steroid usage for an extended period has often been linked, among other things, to osteoporosis, stomach ulcers, hypertension[10], and cataracts.

Long-term oral steroid use might result in diabetes[12], weight gain, and acne although regular use of injectable treatments seldom causes these problems.

The good news is that very sparing use of corticosteroid medications would probably not result in negative side effects.

However, it is advisable to discuss any pre-existing medical issues you might have with your doctor before receiving a corticosteroid to observe how your body might react to it.

Dosage Of Corticosteroids

Corticosteroid pills should be taken with a meal, or shortly after a meal, especially during breakfast, to prevent stomach irritation.

Take a missed dose as soon as possible when you remember it. Skip the missed dose if the next dose is soon due. Also, never take a second dose to make up for the missed dose.

Get immediate medical help if you accidentally ingest too many corticosteroid tablets as that is going to be hazardous.

Your body might be more susceptible to adverse effects if you consume too many corticosteroid pills over an extended period, as per the study[13].

Always take your medicines as directed by your healthcare provider. They are the best reliable source to outline the exact dosage and frequency of use.

Interaction Of Corticosteroids

There are no serious interactions with medicines that corticosteroid is known to have. However, corticosteroids might have some minor interaction with mifepristone[14].

Never start, alter, or stop the dosage of corticosteroids without first consulting your healthcare provider.

If you need additional medical advice regarding corticosteroids, would like more details, or have specific concerns and questions about your health, clear your doubts with your doctor or any other qualified healthcare provider.

What distinguishes anabolic steroids from corticosteroids?

Both anabolic steroids and corticosteroids could be referred to as steroids in this context. But let’s talk about the difference between anabolic steroids and corticosteroids.

The hormone testosterone has a close connection[15] to anabolic steroids. The sexual health of a male is governed by this hormone, which also has a significant impact on blood cells and muscle growth.

Professional athletes are usually not permitted to use these steroids since they are unlawful ways to gain muscle mass.

Legal anabolic steroids are prescribed by the medical community to help gain body mass in some cancer patients, for low testosterone problems, and gender-affirming hormone therapy.

Other applications of corticosteroids outside of those already mentioned include[16] disorders of the neurological system like multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and lupus.

Since corticosteroids are prescribed more often, it’s likely that if your healthcare provider uses the word steroid in conversation with you, they’re referring to corticosteroids.

How Do Manage The Side Effects Of Corticosteroids?

The following advice could lessen the adverse[17] effects of corticosteroids:

  • Avoid close contact with sick persons, particularly those with measles, chickenpox, or shingles.
  • Consume a balanced, healthy diet to help avoid osteoporosis and weight gain, and exercise frequently.
  • Take your corticosteroid pills in the morning with breakfast. Doing so might help prevent trouble sleeping, indigestion, and heartburn. Some corticosteroid-coated pills could be taken without food as well.

Conclusion

Inflammatory disorders are used to treat with the help of corticosteroids, which are steroidal drugs that mimic the effects of the hormone cortisol.

Corticosteroid is a quite potent drugs. In addition to its positive effects in addressing various medical issues, it might also have potentially dangerous side effects.

One should be aware of any changes in symptoms or adverse effects when using corticosteroids.

Additionally, patients should inform their doctor of the dietary supplements and additional medications they are taking. This way they can avoid the danger of negative drug interactions with corticosteroids.

References/Sources

Working4Health prefers using primary and verified references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and our primary references include peer-reviewed research, academic, and medical institution studies.

  1. Alexander Hodgens; Tariq Sharman. Corticosteroids Last Update: May 8, 2022. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554612/
  2. Agnes E. Coutinho and Karen E. Chapman. The anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects of glucocorticoids, recent developments and mechanistic insights. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2011 Mar 15; 335(1): 2–13. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2010.04.005
  3. Peter J Barnes. How corticosteroids control inflammation: Quintiles Prize Lecture 2005. Br J Pharmacol. 2006 Jun; 148(3): 245–254. Published online 2006 Apr 10. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjp.0706736
  4. A S Fauci. Corticosteroids in autoimmune disease. Hosp Pract (Off Ed). 1983 Oct;18(10):99-103, 107-18, 113-4. doi: 10.1080/21548331.1983.11702661. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6413383/
  5. Evaluation of Corticosteroid in Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome. Date of Publication: March 15, 2019. Available from: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03876041
  6. Prednisone Last Revised – 03/15/2020 Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601102.html
  7. Corticosteroids overdose. Date Of Review: July 7, 2021. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002582.htm
  8. Andrew I Jobling, Robert C Augusteyn What causes steroid cataracts? A review of steroid-induced posterior subcapsular cataracts Clin Exp Optom. 2002 Mar;85(2):61-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1444-0938.2002.tb03011.x. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11952401/
  9. Elena Niculet, Carmen Bobeica, and Alin L Tatu Glucocorticoid-Induced Skin Atrophy: The Old and the New Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2020; 13: 1041–1050.Published online 2020 Dec 30. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S224211
  10. Teumzghi F. Mebrahtu, Ann W. Morgan, Robert M. West, et. al. Oral glucocorticoids and incidence of hypertension in people with chronic inflammatory diseases: a population-based cohort study. CMAJ. 2020 Mar 23; 192(12): E295–E301. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.191012
  11. Sonia Phulke, Sushmita Kaushik, Savleen Kaur, et al. Steroid-induced Glaucoma: An Avoidable Irreversible Blindness J Curr Glaucoma Pract. 2017 May-Aug; 11(2): 67–72.Published online 2017 Aug 5. doi: 10.5005/jp-journals-l0028-1226
  12. Jessica L. Hwang and Roy E. Weiss. Steroid-induced diabetes: a clinical and molecular approach to understanding and treatment. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2014 Feb; 30(2): 96–102. doi: 10.1002/dmrr.2486
  13. D Huscher, K Thiele, E Gromnica-Ihle, et al. Dose-related patterns of glucocorticoid-induced side effects Ann Rheum Dis. 2009 Jul;68(7):1119-24. doi: 10.1136/ard.2008.092163. Epub 2008 Aug 6. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18684744/
  14. Blake M. Autry; Roopma Wadhwa. Mifepristone Last Update: May 8, 2022. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557612/
  15. Kavitha Ganesan; Sajedur Rahman; Patrick M. Zito. Anabolic Steroids Last Update: July 4, 2022. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482418/
  16. Miriam Ciriaco, Pasquale Ventrice, Gaetano Russo, et al. Corticosteroid-related central nervous system side effects J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2013 Dec; 4(Suppl1): S94–S98.doi: 10.4103/0976-500X.120975
  17. Theodore R. Fields Steroid Side Effects: How to Reduce Drug Side Effects of Corticosteroids Updated: 8/5/2021 Available from: https://www.hss.edu/conditions_steroid-side-effects-how-to-reduce-corticosteroid-side-effects.asp

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