Steroids to Treat Arthritis

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Quick GuideRheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Pictures Slideshow

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Pictures Slideshow

Introduction to Steroids

Steroids (short for corticosteroids) are synthetic drugs that closely resemble cortisol, a hormone that your body produces naturally. Steroids work by decreasing inflammation and reducing the activity of the immune system. They are used to treat a variety of inflammatory diseases and conditions.

Corticosteroids are different from anabolic steroids, which some athletes use to build bigger muscles. Examples of corticosteroid medications include triamcinolone, cortisone, prednisone, and methylprednisolone.

How Are Steroids Given?

Steroids can be given topically (cream or ointment), by mouth (orally), or by injection. When injected, they can be given into a vein or muscle, directly into a joint or bursa (lubricating sac between certain tendons and the bones beneath them) or around tendons and other soft tissue areas.

How Do Steroids Work?

Steroids decrease inflammation and reduce the activity of the immune system. Inflammation is a process by which the body's white blood cells and chemicals protect the body against infection and foreign organisms such as bacteria and viruses.

In certain diseases, however, the body's defense system (immune system) doesn't function properly and is overactive. This may cause inflammation to work against the body's own tissues and cause tissue damage. Inflammation is characterized by redness, warmth, swelling and pain.

Steroids reduce the production of inflammatory chemicals in order to minimize tissue damage. Steroids also reduce the activity of the immune system by affecting the function of white blood cells.

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