Prednisone is a corticosteroid medication and is more commonly known as a “steroid”. Prednisone is prescribed for many illnesses (too many to list here). For some illnesses it is used for long periods of time and for others it is used for a very limited time. Under normal circumstances it is given in reducing amounts but there are some cases when the doctor feels it is beneficial for long term use at a higher dose. Your doctor should evaluate your doses and the effectson every visit.
Anyone that takes prednisone should be aware of several issues related to this drug. First, you should ask some questions of your doctor.
1.) Why do I need prednisone?
2.) How long will I be on it?
3.) What is the outcome you are expecting?
4.) What side effects might I see?
5.) Is there anything I should or should not do while on prednisone?
These are the most commonly asked questions. If you think of anything else you want to know by all means write them down and ask your doctor. He/she should have no problem answering you. Take your list of questions with you to the doctor and write down the answers. That way you can refer to it later when you can think clearly and you aren’t so nervous. This is true with any visit to the doctor not just for medication questions.
We should discuss possible side effects so you will know what to look for. As with all medications there are minor side effects and more serious ones. These are usually associated with long term use, not short term. It is important to report any and all side effects to your doctor. If you have any major side effects use your best judgment if you need to call 911. This would be true if you have shortness of breath or any other possible life threatening problems. Not everyone has side effects to medications but I think it is worthy of discussion. So PLEASE keep in mind that you may not have any of the following problems while taking prednisone.
Possible Minor side effects:
Dry skin, bruise easily, discoloration of the skin (dark areas resembling a bruise), insomnia, increased sweating, headache, dizziness, thinning skin, slow wound healing, mood swings, weight gain, insatiable appetite, acne, increased or new onset of anxiety.
Possible Major side effects:
Rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, blurred vision, profound weight gain, seizures, tarry or bloody stools, new onset or increase in abdominal pain, swelling, coughing up blood, severe depression, thoughts of suicide, change in behavior, profound mood swings, joint pain, pressure in the eyes, prolonged sore throat, generalized weakness, rash, itching, difficulty swallowing, swelling of the mouth, lips, or tongue, chest pain, degeneration of the bones.
There are more side effects but these seem to be the most commonly seen.
What happens when I take prednisone for a long time?
Well, there are some things that are likely to happen with long term use. The two that seem to appear most often are weight gain and what is called a “moon face”. Moon face is when the shape of the face becomes very round and puffy. Once the prednisone is no longer in your system then the face returns to its normal appearance. There is also a strong possibility that your immune system will be compromised so you should avoid exposure to any illnesses if possible.
Important facts you should know about prednisone:
1.) Never just “STOP” taking prednisone. You have to be weaned off of it. That is done by the doctor lowering the doses over a period of time.
2.) Report any and all side effects or suspected side effects to your doctor immediately.
3.) There are many medications that can not be taken with prednisone. Make sure your doctor is aware of all the medications you are taking before starting prednisone.
4.) Alcohol should not be used while on prednisone.
5.) If you are a diabetic then be aware that prednisone can elevate blood sugar levels.
6.) Caution should be taken with the elderly and young children.
These are some of the things that you should know about prednisone. Discuss any questions you may have with your doctor before starting any medications. I hope that this will help those of you that are taking or going to be taking prednisone.
Don’t be alarmed by the list of side effects listed. If you looked up any other medication you would find a similar list. The drug companies are required by law to list the most frequently seen side effects (whether minor or major) for every drug on the market. This is just a guideline for us as consumers to know what to look for should something occur.