- What are systemic corticosteroids and how do they work?
- What are some examples of systemic (oral and injectable) corticosteroids?
- For what conditions are systemic corticosteroids used?
- Are there any differences among the different types of systemic corticosteroids?
- What are the side effects of systemic corticosteroids?
- With which drugs do systemic (oral and injectable) corticosteroids interact?
What are systemic corticosteroids and how do they work?
Corticosteroids are steroid hormones that are either produced by the body or are man-made.
Systemic corticosteroids refer to corticosteroids that are given orally or by injection and distribute throughout the body. It does not include corticosteroids used in the eyes, ears, or nose, on the skin or that are inhaled, although small amounts of these corticosteroids can be absorbed into the body.
Naturally occurring corticosteroids, hydrocortisone (Cortef) and cortisone, are produced by the outer portion of the adrenal gland known as the cortex (hence the name, corticosteroid). Corticosteroids are classified as either:
- glucocorticoids (anti-inflammatory) which suppress inflammation and immunity and assist in the breakdown of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, or as
- mineralocorticoids (salt retaining) that regulate the balance of salt and water in the body.
Synthetic corticosteroids mimic the actions of naturally occurring corticosteroids and may be used to replace corticosteroids in people with adrenal glands that are unable to produce adequate amounts of corticosteroids, however, they more often are used in higher-than-replacement doses to treat diseases of immunity, inflammation or salt and water balance.
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