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What Is a Betamethasone Injection?

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  • Written By: S.J. Merens
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2016
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The body normally maintains a certain level of natural corticosteroid hormones. These hormones are produced by the adrenal glands and have many essential functions, including regulating immune response and reducing inflammation. When corticosteroid levels drop too low or when serious inflammation develops, a doctor might prescribe an injection of betamethasone. This medication is a synthetic corticosteroid.

Although betamethasone and other corticosteroids might be referred to simply as steroids, they differ from anabolic steroids that are used to boost muscle mass and enhance athletic ability. Anabolic steroids are similar to androgens, or male hormones. Corticosteroids, in contrast, are similar to the hormone cortisol.

A betamethasone injection might contain betamethasone sodium phosphate alone or in combination with betamethasone acetate. Both are odorless white powders that have different levels of solubility in various types of fluid. Betamethasone sodium phosphate is very soluble in water, so it works quickly. The corticosteroid betamethasone acetate is only slightly soluble in water, so it provides longer-lasting effectiveness.

Levels of natural corticosteroids might become too low because of various health conditions. People who have Addison’s disease and those who have had their adrenal glands removed, for example, take medication to maintain proper corticosteroid levels. A sudden significant drop in corticosteroid levels might occur in these individuals during stress caused by injury, infection or psychological trauma. The plunge in corticosteroid levels might lead to shock and become life-threatening. A betamethasone injection can rapidly return corticosteroid levels to normal.

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Corticosteroid hormones also control inflammation. A betamethasone injection helps reduce severe inflammation in autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, lupus and multiple sclerosis. In addition, these injections are helpful for treating severe skin diseases such as Stevens-Johnson syndrome and conditions that cause eye inflammation. A bethametasone injection can resolve a serious asthma attack or a severe allergic reaction that causes serious difficulty breathing.

Doctors sometimes inject betamethasone into a specific area of inflamed tissue. The treatment reduces inflammation that is caused by conditions such as bursitis, tennis elbow, tendinitis and tenosynovitis, which involves inflammation of the sheath surrounding a tendon. Reducing this inflammation decreases pain and allows for better function of the affected area.

Patients usually receive a betamethasone injection in a medical setting, but some do take their own injections at home. Individuals who receive this medicine, particularly on a regular basis, must be aware of the many possible side effects associated with this powerful medication. Examples include weakened resistance to infections, changes in appetite, fluid retention and a rounded face. The injections also have negative interactions with numerous other medications, and certain health conditions make taking this corticosteroid inadvisable.

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