SIDE EFFECTS: Prednisolone side effects depend on the dose, the duration and the frequency of administration. Short courses of prednisolone - days to a week or two - are usually well tolerated with few and mild side effects. Long-term, high doses of prednisolone will usually produce predictable and potentially serious side effects. Whenever possible, the lowest effective doses of prednisolone should be used for the shortest length of time to minimize side effects. Alternate day dosing can also help reduce side effects.
Side effects of prednisolone and other corticosteroids range from mild annoyances to serious irreversible damage. Side effects include
- fluid retention,
- weight gain,
- high blood pressure,
- potassium loss,
- muscle weakness,
- puffiness of and hair growth on the face,
- thinning and easy bruising of the skin,
- peptic ulceration,
- worsening of diabetes,
- irregular menses,
- growth retardation in children,
- convulsions, and
- psychic disturbances. (Psychic disturbances can include depression, euphoria, insomnia, mood swings, personality changes, and even psychotic behavior.)
Prolonged use of prednisolone can depress the ability of body's adrenal glands to produce corticosteroids. Abruptly stopping prednisolone can cause symptoms of corticosteroid insufficiency, with accompanying nausea/a>, vomiting, and even shock. Therefore, withdrawal of prednisolone is usually accomplished by gradual tapering. Gradually tapering prednisolone not only minimizes the symptoms of corticosteroid insufficiency, but it also reduces the risk of an abrupt flare of the disease under treatment.
Prednisolone and other corticosteroids can mask signs of infection and impair the body's natural immune response to infection. Patients on corticosteroids are more susceptible to infections and can develop more serious infections than healthy individuals. For instance, chickenpox and measles viruses can produce serious and even fatal illnesses in patients on high doses of prednisolone. Live virus vaccines, such as smallpox vaccine, should be avoided in patients taking high doses of prednisolone, since even vaccine viruses may cause disease in patients taking prednisolone. Some infectious organisms, such as tuberculosis (TB) and malaria, can remain dormant in a patient for years. Prednisolone and other corticosteroids can reactivate dormant infections in these patients and cause serious illnesses. Patients with dormant TB may require anti-TB medications while undergoing prolonged corticosteroid treatment.
By interfering with the patient's immune response, prednisolone can impede the effectiveness of vaccinations. Prednisolone can also interfere with the tuberculin skin test and cause false negative results in patients with tuberculosis infection.
Prednisolone impairs calcium absorption and new bone formation. Patients on prolonged treatment with prednisolone and other corticosteroids can develop thinning of bone (osteoporosis) and an increased risk of bone fractures. Supplemental calcium and vitamin D are encouraged to slow this process of bone thinning. In some patients, medications used to treat osteoporosis may be prescribed. In rare individuals, destruction of large joints (osteonecrosis) can occur while undergoing treatment with prednisolone or other corticosteroids. These patients experience severe pain in the involved joints, and can require replacement of joints. The reason behind such destruction is not clear.
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