How Long Do Prednisone Side Effects Last?

How long prednisone side effects last depends on factors such as your dose and how long you've been taking the medication. Most go away once the dose is lowered or the steroid is stopped altogether. However, others—like vision problems and osteoporosis—may be permanent.

Typically, if a healthcare provider prescribes prednisone, it's because the benefits outweigh the risks. They will try to prescribe the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time possible to mitigate side effects, but some people may need higher doses or longer use for the medication to be effective.

This article discusses the potential side effects of prednisone and when you should call your doctor. It also explains which prednisone side effects are likely to resolve and which ones may not.

Prednisone side effects
Illustration by Brianna Gilmartin, Verywell

Why Dosage and Length of Treatment Matter

A short course of 10 milligrams (mg) of prednisone a day may not cause side effects. (In fact, the body naturally produces a substance equivalent to about 5 mg of prednisone.) However, a dosage of 10 to 20 mg a day for a month or more—or a dosage of more than 20 mg a day for any length of time—could.

Once prednisone is discontinued, many side effects go away. How long it will take to get the dose low and finally down to nothing depends on the length of time that prednisone was used and how much you take.

The longer the prednisone was taken and the higher the dose, the longer it will take you to taper off the medication, and the longer you may have certain side effects.

Tapering off of prednisone too quickly can cause its own side effects, including a return of your symptoms, headaches, dizziness, weakness, mood swings, and more. It can also lead to adrenal crisis, a life-threatening condition in which your levels of the hormone cortisol are too low.

Short- vs. Long-Term Use

Prednisone is used to treat respiratory illnesses such as upper respiratory tract infections, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and pulmonary fibrosis.

It is also used to treat inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid diseases, neurological conditions such as myasthenia gravis, muscular dystrophy, and certain diseases of the kidney such as glomerulosclerosis.

In some cases, such as for acute inflammation like an upper respiratory tract infection, the course of prednisone might be short; it's only used for a few days or weeks.

However, people with IBD or other inflammatory conditions may find their healthcare providers have prescribed them prednisone for months or even years.

The goal of IBD treatment is typically to wean a patient off the steroids, but sometimes it can be difficult. Some people can taper their drug dosage down to a certain point, but then symptoms return, and they must bump it back up again.

The goal of treatment in IBD is always to induce remission with a maintenance drug that has fewer side effects and discontinue the prednisone.

Types of Prednisone Side Effects

While prednisone is very effective, the list of potential side effects of prednisone is extensive.

These range from facial "mooning" (the face taking on a moon-like swollen shape), acne, and increased hair growth (hirsutism) to increased appetite, mood swings, difficulty sleeping, and more.

Any time healthcare providers start patients on steroids, the short- and long-term adverse effects of prednisone should be discussed.

Common Side Effects

Some common side effects of prednisone include:

  • Acne
  • Bulging eyes
  • Changes in personality
  • Changes in the way fat is distributed around the body
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme changes in mood
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Fragile skin
  • Heartburn
  • Headache
  • Inappropriate happiness
  • Increased hair growth
  • Increased sweating
  • Irregular or absent menstrual periods
  • Red or purple blotches or lines under the skin
  • Slowed healing of cuts and bruises
  • Weak muscles

Tell your doctor if any of these side effects are severe or do not go away.

Serious Side Effects

Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following serious side effects:

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Dry, hacking cough
  • Eye pain, redness, or tearing
  • Hives
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Itching
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of contact with reality
  • Muscle twitching or tightening
  • Numbness, burning, or tingling in the face, arms, legs, feet, or hands
  • Rash
  • Seizures
  • Shaking of the hands that you cannot control
  • Shortness of breath, especially during the night
  • Sore throat, fever, chills, cough, or other signs of infection
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, tongue, throat, arms, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • Swelling or pain in the stomach
  • Upset stomach
  • Vision problems
  • Vomiting

Permanent Side Effects

As the prednisone dosage is tapered down below 10 mg a day and eventually discontinued, the temporary side effects will lessen and reverse.

It should be noted, however, that some potential adverse effects of prednisone are permanent, and discontinuing the drug will not reverse them. These include:

  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts
  • Osteoporosis (bone weakness)
  • Osteonecrosis (bone death)

A Word From Verywell

No one wants to be put on prednisone but there's no denying that, for many people, it gets results and calms inflammation quickly. Anyone with concerns about prednisone side effects should discuss them with a healthcare provider.

There may be ways to avoid certain side effects, such as by taking doses earlier in the day to lessen the effect on sleep. It's also important to discuss how long the prednisone will be needed and what the plan is to stop the prednisone altogether.

Knowing the answers to these questions can help in getting through a course of prednisone without quite so many struggles with side effects.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why do I have side effects after stopping prednisone?

    If you have been taking prednisone long-term or in high doses, you may be experiencing withdrawal symptoms. It is important to follow your healthcare provider's instructions for tapering your prednisone dose. Do not stop taking it abruptly.

  • Does prednisone have lingering effects?

    It can. While most side effects of prednisone resolve after you stop taking it, some may be permanent. These include vision problems like cataracts and glaucoma, and problems with bone health, including thinning bones (osteoporosis) and bone death.

  • What are the mental-health side effects of prednisone?

    Mental health issues that can be triggered by prednisone include extreme mood changes, anger, depression, inappropriate happiness, insomnia, and personality changes. More extreme reactions, though rare, can also occur.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  9. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Prednisone.

Additional Reading
  • MedlinePlus. Prednisone. U.S. National Library of Medicine 1 Sept 2010.
  • UW Medicine. Corticosteroids for Arthritis. University of Washington–Seattle Dec 30 2004.

By Amber J. Tresca
Amber J. Tresca is a freelance writer and speaker who covers digestive conditions, including IBD. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 16.