Corticosteroids Systemic (Oral and Injectable)

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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:

  1. glucocorticoids (anti-inflammatory) which suppress inflammation and immunity and assist in the breakdown of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, or as
  2. 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.

Examples of synthetic corticosteroids include:

  • bethamethasone, (Celestone)
  • prednisone (Prednisone Intensol)
  • prednisolone (Orapred, Prelone)
  • triamcinolone (Aristospan Intra-Articular, Aristospan Intralesional, Kenalog)
  • methylprednisolone (Medrol, Depo-Medrol, Solu-Medrol)
  • dexamethasone (Dexamethasone Intensol, DexPak 10 Day, DexPak 13 Day, DexPak 6 Day).

Some glucocorticoids also in addition to their anti-inflammatory actions have salt retaining properties but they are used mostly for their anti-inflammatory effects. Fludrocortisone (Florinef), a synthetic mineralocorticoid has strong salt retaining effects with significant anti-inflammatory actions, and is used mostly for it's salt retaining capabilities.

What are some examples of systemic (oral and injectable) corticosteroids?

The following is a list of the systemic (oral and injectable) corticosteroids that are available in the United States:

Glucocorticoids:

  • hydrocortisone (Cortef)
  • cortisone
  • ethamethasoneb (Celestone)
  • prednisone (Prednisone Intensol)
  • prednisolone (Orapred, Prelone)
  • triamcinolone (Aristospan Intra-Articular, Aristospan Intralesional, Kenalog) Methylprednisolone (Medrol, Depo-Medrol, Solu-Medrol)
  • dexamethasone (Dexamethasone Intensol, DexPak 10 Day, DexPak 13 Day, DexPak 6 Day)

Mineralocorticoid:

  • Fludrocortisone (Florinef)

For what conditions are systemic corticosteroids used?

Corticosteroids belonging to the glucocorticoid class influence the body system in several ways, but they are used mostly for their strong anti-inflammatory effects and in conditions that are related to the immune system function such as:

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/15/2014



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