Medrol (Methylprednisolone) Side Effects

A corticosteroid used to treat arthritis and other inflammatory conditions

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As with taking any drug, the side effects of Medrol (methylprednisolone)—a corticosteroid used to treat inflammation caused by conditions like arthritis—must be carefully considered.

The most commonly reported side effects of methylprednisolone include upset stomach, headache, and insomnia. What you may experience can vary depending on the dose you take, duration of treatment, underlying conditions, and other medications you're taking.

Learn more about the side effects of methylprednisolone, including when it may not be suitable for you and the side effects that require immediate medical attention.

female doctor talking to a patient

Ariel Skelley/ Getty Images

Common Methylprednisolone Side Effects

Methylprednisolone is typically given orally by Medrol dose packs and sometimes by injection either intravenously (into a vein), intramuscularly (into a muscle), or intra-articulaly (into a joint).

Generally, dosages of either form are given in short durations and cause minimal side effects.

That said, methylprednisolone side effects are more commonly seen with the oral form of the corticosteroid rather than injectable forms. There is, however, a higher risk of skin complications such as skin hypopigmentation (skin discoloration) with injections.

The most common side effects of methylprednisolone include:

  • An upset stomach
  • Stomach irritation
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Acne
  • Increased hair growth
  • Weight gain
  • Easy bruising
  • Irregular or absent menstrual periods

Some of these side effects may go away during your course of treatment as your body becomes more accustomed to methylprednisolone. Your healthcare provider may also be able to prescribe ways to manage, prevent, and reduce these concerns.

Serious Side Effects of Methylprednisolone

Methylprednisolone can produce serious side effects that require medical treatment.

Serious methylprednisolone side effects include:

  • Fluid and electrolyte problems: This could involve sodium retention, hypertension, congestive heart failure (CHF), and potassium loss
  • Musculoskeletal symptoms: Muscle weakness, loss of muscle mass, osteoporosis, and tendon rupture
  • Gastrointestinal side effects: A peptic ulcer, pancreatitis, and ulcerative esophagitis
  • Skin conditions: Impaired wound healing, thinning and fragility of the skin, facial erythema, or reddening of the skin
  • Neurological complications: Convulsions and vertigo
  • Endocrine problems: Suppression of growth in children, insulin resistance, and hyperglycemia
  • Eye problems: Development of posterior subcapsular cataracts or glaucoma
  • Metabolic issues: Negative nitrogen balance due to protein catabolism
  • Cardiac problems: An increased or decreased heart rate and symptoms of a heart attack like chest pain

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

If you find yourself experiencing any of the following side effects, call your healthcare provider right away or seek emergency assistance:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion, personality changes, decreased alertness
  • Skin rash
  • Swelling of the face, lower legs, or ankles
  • Changes in vision
  • A cold or infection that lasts for a sustained period
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tarry or black stool
  • Convulsions
  • Vertigo
  • Excessive vomiting or vomiting blood
  • Chest pain or other symptoms of heart attack

Methylprednisolone Warnings

Your healthcare provider will monitor your use of the drug throughout your course of treatment. This may involve surveillance with blood pressure measurements, and/or blood and urine tests.

Your healthcare provider may also ask you to weigh yourself regularly and report any unusual weight changes while you are taking Medrol.

If you plan on getting a Medrol dose pack, you should be aware that the use of this drug comes with several warnings:

  • Allergy: Do not take Medrol if you are allergic to methylprednisolone or any ingredients contained in this drug.
  • Pregnancy: If you're using this drug while pregnant, it could harm your unborn child. If you believe you've become pregnant during the course of treatment, make sure you contact your healthcare provider right away.
  • Stress and anxiety: Notify your healthcare provider if you are currently experiencing significant stress and anxiety in your life. Depending on your emotional and psychological health, your healthcare provider may alter your dosage.
  • Adrenal gland problems: People who are on methylprednisolone for a long period of time or who are using too much of it may have an increased risk of developing adrenal gland problems. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you are experiencing blurred vision, fast or pounding heartbeat, increased urination or thirst, fainting and dizziness, irritability, or if you feel unusually tired or weak.
  • Ulcers: If you have a history of ulcers or take large doses of aspirin or arthritis medication, limit your alcohol consumption while on Medrol. Methylprednisolone makes your stomach and intestines more susceptible to the irritating effects of alcohol, aspirin, and certain arthritis medications, which increases your risk of ulcers.
  • Diabetes: Methylprednisolone may increase your blood sugar level. If you monitor your blood sugar (glucose) at home, test your blood or urine more frequently than usual. Call your healthcare provider if your blood sugar is high or if sugar is present in your urine.
  • Infections: Corticosteroids like methylprednisolone may hide some signs of an infection. You should avoid people who are sick to prevent exposure to contagious infections. Be sure to practice good hygiene, including washing your hands regularly. Notify your healthcare provider if you think you've been exposed to measles or chickenpox.
  • Immunizations: Avoid getting any vaccinations without your healthcare provider's approval while you're on this drug. Medrol may decrease your body's resistance and weaken a vaccine's effectiveness.
  • Behavioral changes: You may experience shifts in your behavior, such as depression, sudden mood swings, disruption in your sleep patterns, and personality shifts while on methylprednisolone. Notify your healthcare provider if you notice any of these changes.

You may also be asked to report any injuries or signs of infection like fever, sore throat, pain during urination, and muscle aches that occur during treatment.

Stopping Methylprednisolone

Do not stop taking methylprednisolone without talking to your healthcare provider. Stopping the drug abruptly can cause adverse effects, including blood sugar fluctuations, loss of appetite, upset stomach, vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, headaches, fevers, joint and muscle pain, peeling skin, and weight loss. 

Drug Interactions

Methylprednisolone can interact with other medications you are currently taking. Before starting a course of treatment, notify your healthcare provider about other drugs you are taking.

Keep your healthcare provider informed if you start any new medications while on your Medrol dose pack, and let them know of any adverse reactions you experience.

Some medications should be avoided while you are on methylprednisolone:

  • Avoid using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) because the combination can increase your risk of ulcers.
  • Using cyclosporine and methylprednisolone at the same time can inhibit your metabolism. Using both drugs together has resulted in convulsions in some people.
  • Drugs like phenobarbital, phenytoin, and rifampin increase the clearance of Medrol (the rate at which the active drug is removed from the body), which could mean you'll need an increased dose for it to be effective.
  • Antibiotic medications like troleandomycin and ketoconazole inhibit the body's ability to metabolize methylprednisolone and decrease its clearance rate. This would require the drug to be titrated so that you can avoid steroid toxicity in your system.
  • Aspirin is another common drug that should be used with caution since Medrol increases the clearance of high-dose aspirin in the body.

This is not a complete list of all potential drug interactions with methylprednisolone. Consult your healthcare provider about how best to approach a course of Medrol treatment while on other medications and follow their instructions closely.

A Word From Verywell

While methylprednisolone can be a helpful medication for treating inflammation, ask your healthcare provider about any possible side effects before starting this drug.

Knowing ahead of time what potential side effects you may experience while on methylprednisolone will help you recognize warning signs so you can call your healthcare provider or seek emergency medical help.

Being informed about Medrol and being on top of how your body is responding to it will ensure that you get the best possible treatment for your chronic inflammation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you drink coffee while on methylprednisolone?

    There are no notable reported risks when coffee is taken with methylprednisolone. However, if you experience side effects with caffeine, it may be best to limit your caffeine intake while on methylprednisolone so that you do not add to the possible side effects you may experience from the drug.

  • Can you drink alcohol when on a corticosteroid like methylprednisolone?

    There are no specific warnings against drinking alcohol when on methylprednisolone. For many, moderately drinking alcohol while on corticosteroids like methylprednisolone should be considered safe. Talk to your healthcare provider to make sure it's OK in your case.

7 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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By Brian Mastroianni
Brian Mastroianni is a health and science journalist based in New York. His work has been published by The Atlantic, The Paris Review, CBS News, The TODAY Show, Barron's PENTA, Engadget and Healthline, among others.