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- Take the RA Quiz
- Find a local Rheumatologist in your town
- What are steroids?
- How are steroids given?
- How do steroids work?
- What conditions are treated with steroids?
- What are the benefits of steroids?
- Why are steroids injected?
- What conditions (including arthritis) are treated with steroid injections?
- What are the expected benefits of steroid injections?
- What role do steroid injections play in an overall treatment program?
- When should steroid injections not be used?
- What side effects are associated with steroid injections?
- What are the possible side effects of oral steroids?
- Does everyone develop side effects to steroids?
- How can the side effects be minimized?
- Who should not take steroids?
- How do I know if steroid treatment is right for me?
Quick GuideRheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms and Treatment
Does Everyone Develop Side Effects of Steroids?
No. How often any side effect occurs varies from person to person. If steroid use is brief (from a few days to a few weeks), it is possible that none of the listed side effects will occur. The side effects listed generally do not occur when occasional steroid injections are given for arthritis, tendinitis, or bursitis.
However, if steroid use involves high doses and is prolonged (for a few months to several years), an increase in the number of side effects may occur.
How Can the Side Effects Be Minimized?
To minimize the side effects of steroids, doctors follow these guidelines:
- Use steroids only when necessary.
- Monitor closely to detect the development of serious side effects.
- If possible, use steroid injections for problems in a specific area.
- Use the minimal dose required to gain control of the disease.
- Reduce the dose gradually as long as the disease remains under control.
- Monitor blood pressure often and treat if necessary.
- Recommend calcium supplements, vitamin D, and bone-building prescription medications to help maintain bone strength (this is done especially if steroids will be taken for a long period of time).
- Have your bone density checked every one to two years.
Who Should Not Take Steroids?
Steroids, as with other medications, are not recommended for everyone. In general, people with the following conditions should not take steroids:
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure or congestive heart failure
- Peptic ulcer
- Osteoporosis (bone thinning)
How Do I Know If Steroid Treatment Is Right for Me?
The decision to prescribe steroids is always made on an individual basis. Your doctor will consider your age, your overall health, and other drugs you are taking. Your doctor also will make sure you understand the potential benefits and risks of steroids before you start taking them.
WebMD Medical Reference
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: "Rheumatoid Arthritis Medicines: A Guide for Adults."
UpToDate for Patients: "Patient Information: Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment."
The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center: "Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment."
AGS Foundation for Health in Aging: "Arthritis Pain."
Medline Plus: "Cushing Syndrome."
Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on June 11, 2012