What Are Prednisone Side Effects?

Prednisone has several potential side effects that may be problematic

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Prednisone is an inexpensive and effective type of corticosteroid medication that is frequently used in treating a flare-up in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

While this drug is often one that acts quickly, the side effects of prednisone are well-known for being troublesome to patients. Some of the most frequently discussed side effects are weight gain, insomnia, moodiness, hair growth, and acne.

Prednisone is similar to a compound that is made naturally in the body's adrenal gland, and may also be used to treat a variety of inflammatory conditions.

Because of the potential for serious and ongoing prednisone side effects, whenever possible, this drug should only be used on a short-term basis.

Prednisone also suppresses the immune system, which may be necessary to dampen down inflammation from an autoimmune or immune-mediated disease. However, having a depressed immune system may also leave a patient open to developing other infections.

Below is a list of some of the possible side effects of prednisone. For concerns about any side effects or adverse effects from prednisone, contact a physician for instructions.

Prednisone should not be stopped suddenly as doing so may be harmful to the adrenal glands. The drug should be decreased gradually over a period of time to avoid problems.

This drug must be slowly decreased over a period of time. A physician will outline the tapering down of the drug to avoid problems with withdrawal and to prevent the symptoms of the disease from coming back again. The length of time of the taper will depend on several factors, including how long you have taken the drug.

Common Side Effects

Check with a doctor if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome:

  • increased appetite
  • indigestion
  • nervousness or restlessness

Less Frequent or Rare Side Effects

Check with a doctor if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome:

  • darkening or lightening of skin color
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • flushing of face or cheeks
  • hiccups
  • increased sweating
  • sensation of spinning

When to Notify a Doctor

Less common:

  • Decreased or blurred vision
  • frequent urination
  • increased thirst

Rare:

  • confusion
  • excitement
  • false sense of well-being
  • hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there)
  • mental depression
  • mistaken feelings of self-importance or being mistreated
  • mood swings (sudden and wide)
  • restlessness
  • skin rash or hives

These side effects may occur when this drug is used for a prolonged period of time. Check with a doctor if any of the following side effects occur:

  • abdominal or stomach pain or burning (continuing)
  • acne
  • bloody or black, tarry stools
  • changes in vision
  • eye pain
  • filling or rounding out of the face
  • headache
  • irregular heartbeat
  • menstrual problems
  • muscle cramps or pain
  • muscle weakness
  • nausea
  • pain in arms, back, hips, legs, ribs, or shoulders
  • reddish purple lines on arms, face, groin, legs, or trunk
  • redness of eyes
  • sensitivity of eyes to light
  • stunting of growth (in children)
  • swelling of feet or lower legs
  • tearing of eyes
  • thin, shiny skin
  • trouble in sleeping
  • unusual bruising
  • unusual increase in hair growth
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • vomiting
  • weight gain (rapid)
  • wounds that will not heal

A Word From Verywell

Taking corticosteroids may lower the ability to fight off infections. Any infection that does develop may also be harder to treat.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible when noticing any possible signs of an infection, such as sore throat, fever, sneezing, or coughing.

After stopping this medicine, the body may need time to adjust. The length of time this takes depends on the amount of prednisone taken and how long it was used.

After taking large doses of this medicine for a long time, it may take up to one year to return to how things were prior to the prednisone. During this time, check with a doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur:

  • abdominal, stomach, or back pain
  • dizziness
  • fainting
  • fever
  • loss of appetite (continuing)
  • muscle or joint pain
  • nausea
  • reappearance of disease symptoms
  • shortness of breath
  • unexplained headaches (frequent or continuing)
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • vomiting
  • weight loss (rapid)

Other side effects not listed above may also occur in some patients. Check with a doctor about any other effects that occur. This information is meant only as a guideline—always consult a physician or pharmacist for complete information about prescription medications.

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Article Sources

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  • UCSF Medical Center. "FAQ: Prednisone." University of California San Francisco. 2016.