Living With Prednisone

Side effects of this drug can be dealt with effectively

Prednisone is often used to treat inflammatory conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). And in some cases, it is the best treatment choice. But a conversation with your doctor about the pros and cons of using prednisone is important, as the drug's side effects can be difficult to cope with for many people.

The good news is that, if it's decided that prednisone is needed, some side effects can be managed with careful planning. Still, it's important to know how and when to stop taking the drug, as it is recommended only for short-term use.

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Prednisone Side Effects

Prednisone comes with a list of potential side effects that can be daunting. Many of the more serious and long-lasting ones develop after taking the drug for months to years.

While the list is long, the good news is that most prednisone side effects will lessen and go away when the drug is appropriately tapered and eventually discontinued. This must be done slowly over a period of time to prevent problems with the adrenal glands.

Reducing the amount of prednisone taken and stopping it as soon as possible should be the goal of IBD treatment, but this must be done under a doctor's supervision.

In the meantime, working closely with your physician to address adverse effects will help lessen their impact on daily life. 

Steroid Acne

One of the more visible side effects of prednisone can be steroid acne. This type of acne typically appears on the face, chest, and back. It tends to go away when the prednisone is discontinued, but it can be very troublesome for some people—especially adolescents who may be coping with typical teenage breakouts.

IBD must be kept in mind when considering what acne treatments can be tried, but there are solutions that can help improve your skin.

Drug-Related Weight Gain

Many people gain weight while taking prednisone. In some cases, a little weight gain might be welcome. This may particularly true for some people with IBD who struggle to retain weight due to issues such as diarrhea and lack of appetite. For others, this extra weight can be distressing.

With the help of your physician and perhaps a nutritionist, you can put a plan in place to help you lose weight (if needed) and avoid gaining it in the first place.

Facial Swelling

People taking higher amounts of prednisone may notice their face or neck appearing fuller than it did before. This is not an uncommon side effect of prednisone, and it can be quite upsetting.

Often called "moon face," it will go away when the prednisone is discontinued. Find out more about swelling in the face and neck while taking prednisone.

Steroid-Induced Osteoporosis

Along with the temporary side effects of prednisone, there are some permanent side effects that should be considered while taking this drug. One such adverse effect is the development of osteoporosis, which is associated with long-term use of prednisone.

This effect may be avoided or mitigated by taking steps such as taking calcium supplements, quitting smoking, and engaging in weight-bearing exercise.

Cataracts

Another potential permanent adverse effect of prednisone is the formation of cataracts in the eyes. Cataracts can occur in patients of any age after high doses or prolonged use of prednisone.

Given this, it's important to not only know the symptoms of cataracts so you can bring them to your doctor's attention as early as possible if they occur, but to also know other risk factors and ways you can work to prevention this condition.

Re-Evaluating Your Dose

Most physicians are trying to get away from prescribing prednisone for IBD and other inflammatory diseases, favoring newer medications that have fewer possible adverse effects. When recommended, prednisone should be used for the shortest duration possible.

That said, 2020 guidelines still recommend corticosteroids for those who are hospitalized with ulcerative colitis as a way to reduce the chance that surgery will be needed. The recommendations, however, suggest that lower doses be used than in the past and only for a period of up to seven days (treatment beyond seven days is unlikely to be effective).

A Word From Verywell

Keep an open line of communication between you and your doctor. Be sure to mention any new side effects that arise while you're taking prednisone, as well as if any are worsening or persistent. And when it's time to being tapering off the drug, follow your doctor's instructions to the letter to ensure that you do so as safely as possible.

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