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- Moderate to Severe Forms of Psoriasis Slideshow
- What is prednisone, and how does it work?
- What diseases and conditions does prednisone treat (uses)?
- What is the dosage for prednisone, and how should it be taken?
- How should prednisone be tapered, and what are the withdrawal symptoms and signs?
- Is this drug available in generic form?
- Do I need a prescription for this drug?
- Prednisone side effects and adverse events
- Which drugs or supplements interact with prednisone?
- Is it safe to take prednisone over a long period of time?
- Is this drug safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
- What brand names are available for prednisone?
- What else should I know about this medicine?
Prednisone side effects and adverse events
Side effects of prednisone and other corticosteroids range from mild annoyances to serious, irreversible organ damage, and they occur more frequently with higher doses and more prolonged treatment.
Common side effects include:
- Retention of sodium (salt) and fluid
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- Loss of potassium
- Muscle weakness
- Thinning skin
- Problems sleeping
Serious side effects include:
- Puffiness of the face (moon face)
- Growth of facial hair
- Thinning and easy bruising of the skin
- Impaired wound healing
- Ulcers in the stomach and duodenum
- Worsening of diabetes
- Irregular menses
- Rounding of the upper back ("buffalo hump")
- Retardation of growth in children
- Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reactions like hives, itching, skin rash, swollen lips/tongue/face)
- Vision changes
- Congestive heart failure
- Heart attack
- Pulmonary edema
- Allergic dermatitis
- Low blood pressure
- Amenorrhea (lack of menstruation)
- Newly onset diabetes
This drug also causes psychiatric disturbances, which include:
Other possible serious side effects of this drug include:
Prednisone and diabetes: Prednisone is associated with new onset or manifestations of latent diabetes, and worsening of diabetes. Diabetics may require higher doses of diabetes medications while taking prednisone,
Allergic reaction: Some people may develop a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to prednisone that includes swelling of the airways (angioedema) that may result in shortness of breath or airway blockage.
Immune suppression: Prednisone suppresses the immune system and, therefore, increases the frequency or severity of infections and decreases the effectiveness of vaccines and antibiotics.
Osteoporosis: Prednisone may cause osteoporosis that results in fractures of bones. Patients taking long-term prednisone often receive supplements of calcium and vitamin D to counteract the effects on bones. Calcium and vitamin D probably are not enough, however, and treatment with bisphosphonates such as alendronate (Fosamax) and risedronate (Actonel) may be necessary. Calcitonin (Miacalcin) also is effective. The development of osteoporosis and the need for treatment can be monitored using bone density scans.
Adrenal insufficiency and weaning off prednisone: Prolonged use of prednisone and other corticosteroids causes the adrenal glands to atrophy (shrink) and stop producing the body's natural corticosteroid, cortisol.
Necrosis of hips and joints: A serious complication of long-term use of corticosteroids is aseptic necrosis of the hip joints. Aseptic necrosis is a condition in which there is death and degeneration of the hip bone. It is a painful condition that ultimately can lead to the need for surgical replacement of the hip. Aseptic necrosis also has been reported in the knee joints. The estimated incidence of aseptic necrosis among long-term users of corticosteroids is 3%-4%. Patients taking corticosteroids who develop pain in the hips or knees should report the pain to their doctors promptly.
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