What is corticosteroids?

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Steroids: Overview

Steroid medicines (corticosteroids) are often prescribed by doctors to treat many conditions. They help calm down the body's response to inflammation. You may take them for asthma, COPD, back pain, or allergic reactions. They are also used for other conditions such as autoimmune diseases, arthritis, and certain types of cancer. These medicines can be given as pills or injections.

The steroids discussed here are not the type of steroids used for body building.

Corticosteroid Medicines

Corticosteroid medicines—also called steroid medicines—are similar to natural hormones produced in the body that help control many necessary functions, including blood sugar and salt (electrolyte) levels, the body's water balance, and immune system function. These medicines may help provide relief for diseases that cause inflammation, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Common prescription steroid medicines include dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, and prednisone.

Steroid medicines have many side effects. The side effects a person has may depend on the steroid dose and how long the medicine is taken. Side effects like problems sleeping, mood changes, weight gain, and increases in blood sugar may occur shortly after starting a steroid medicine. Other side effects like changes in the color and thickness of skin, formation of cataracts, increases in blood pressure, and a reduced ability to fight infections may develop over time or at higher doses.

What are the symptoms of high blood sugar?

The most common symptoms of high blood sugar include:

  • Thirst.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Weight loss.
  • Blurry vision.

What effect can steroids have on blood sugar?

Steroid medicine has many benefits. But one side effect of steroids is that they can raise your blood sugar level while you take them. In most cases, this is temporary.

If you already have diabetes, you may notice that your blood sugars jump higher after you take steroids.

Very rarely, taking steroids may lead to a new diagnosis of diabetes.

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