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What are the Different Methylprednisolone Side Effects?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Harkin
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 04 December 2016
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Methylprednisolone is a glucocorticoid drug, or steroid hormone, typically recommended as an anti-inflammatory to treat severe allergic reactions, lupus, ulcerative colitis, skin problems, and arthritis. It is prescribed most often under the names Medrol®, Solu-medrol® and Cadista®. Methylprednisolone side effects include osteoporosis, eye problems, muscle loss and weakness, peptic ulcers, nutrient loss, fluid retention, headaches, dizziness, and disruption of the endocrine system.

Osteoporosis, or loss of bone mass, is the most common methylprednisolone side effect. It occurs for several reasons, including suppression of cells involved in bone formation, a decrease in calcium absorption, and an increased loss of calcium through the urine. Methylprednisolone use is typically preceded by a baseline bone density scan, yearly bone density reviews and calcium supplementation.

Eye problems are another one of the many methylprednisolone side effects. The eye problems involved with methylprednisolone use are cataracts, exophthalmos, and glaucoma. These side effects are most common in people with a familial history of these eye disorders. Getting an eye examine prior to starting methylprednisolone and getting regular eye examines while on the medication is typically suggested. If eye problems are observed, the medication can be stopped or decreased to reduce further damage.

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Methylprednisolone side effects also impact the muscular system, causing muscle weakens or loss. The myopathy may be due to disruption of protein synthesis, which is important in rebuilding and maintaining muscles. There is a positive correlation between the degree of weakness and loss and both the dose of the methylprednisolone and duration of use: the higher the dose or longer the use, the greater the risk and severity of muscle loss.

Peptic ulcers, faluts or weaknesses in the lining of the stomach or intestine, are a gastrointestinal side effect of methylprednisolone. The drug reduces the production of the protective mucus which lines the intestine and stomach, and allows the acidic gastric juices to wear holes in the intestine or stomach. Peptic ulcers are identified by a stinging sensation in the middle of the abdomen a few hours after eating.

Nutrient loss and retention of fluids are methylprednisolone side effects which can result in conditions like hypokalemia, alkalosis and heart failure. Hypokalemia is a potassium deficit. Alkalosis occurs when the pH of the body fluids becomes overly basic due to the kidney’s response to potassium deficiency. When both hypokalemia and alkalosis are left untreated, the electrolyte imbalance in the body can lead to heart failure, but this is a rare side effect.

Methylprednisolone can also cause increased intercranial pressure. This increased pressure sometimes results in damage to the optic nerve and the creation of blank areas in a patient’s vision. Increased intercranial pressure can also cause headaches and dizziness.

There are also several endocrine related side effects to methylprednisolone use. Adding a steroid hormone to the body can produce Cushing’s syndrome, characterized by obese upper body, thin legs and arms and a round, full face. It can also result in arrested growth in kids, and cause menstrual variations in women.

Methylprednisolone side effects are many and varied, but the medication can be useful to help serious health conditions. Doctors and patients will often carefully establish a course of use that will mitigate the risks and maximize the benefits. An established course, scheduled check-ups, and preventative measures to avoid known side effects can make methylprednisolone use a viable option for many patients.

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