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What Is Dexamethasone?

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  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 19 August 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid, which is a type of steroid medication. It is a synthetic form of a natural chemical produced by the adrenal gland. A doctor may prescribe it if a person lacks sufficient quantities of this chemical.

This steroid works by suppressing overactive immune system responses. It may be used to treat a variety of medical conditions, including inflammation and arthritis. People may also take it for severe asthma or allergies as well as certain kinds of cancer; dexamethasone may relieve nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy cancer medications. It may also treat disorders of the intestine, thyroid, and blood as well as the kidneys, eyes, and skin.

Dexamethasone is available in either tablets or a liquid solution. Some patients may be instructed to take it every morning; others may use it every other day. It is essential for people to follow the prescription instructions exactly. This drug should be taken with a full glass of water. People who experience stomach upset may also take it with food or a glass of milk.

The prescribing doctor will likely schedule regular check-ups and tests to evaluate the efficacy of the corticosteroid. He may check the bone growth of juvenile patients, as dexamethasone may interfere with this process. The doctor may also change the dosage of the medication to optimize the body's response to it.

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Patients should take steps to ensure their general health while taking dexamethasone. Since it suppresses the immune system, individuals are more likely to become ill. They should not receive a vaccination without the prescribing doctor's approval. Patients should also inform the physician immediately if they become stricken with an infection or if they suffer an injury.

Patients also may need to weigh themselves regularly and report any unusual weight gain. Diabetics should test their blood glucose levels more frequently, as dexamethasone may increase it. Patients taking this corticosteroid for asthma should check their sputum for unusual color or consistency changes as well. Sputum is the material that a person may cough up while suffering an asthma attack.

Side effects should be reported to a physician. These can include dizziness, insomnia, and an upset stomach. Changes in mood, including depression and anxiety, may also occur. Other risks are irregular menstrual periods, headache, and vomiting.

Patients who experience more severe side effects from dexamethasone should contact their physicians immediately. These may include vision problems, skin rash, or swelling of the face or lower extremities. Muscle weakness, tarry stool, or a persistent illness may also require medical attention.

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