The most common of the long-term effects of prednisone is that it can relieve the symptoms of the disorder it is prescribed to treat, such as allergic reactions, arthritis and lupus. Aside from this desired effect, there are also a number of undesirable long-term effects that can adversely affect a patient's health. Prednisone can affect many systems in the body, including the bones, skin, eyes, immune system and digestive system. The chances of developing a serious condition increases with long-term use, though most patients do not experience any of these possible effects.
Patients with certain inflammatory conditions may be prescribed prednisone. The positive, long-term effects of prednisone include decreased inflammation and irritation in various parts of the body, including the lungs, joints and skin. This can relieve the symptoms of many chronic conditions and give a person the opportunity to heal.
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Many of the possible long-term effects of prednisone adversely affect a patient's body. This drug has been known to affect the reproductive systems of both men and women. In women, prednisone can cause irregular periods. In men, impotence has been associated with long-term use of the drug.
There are a number of long-term effects of taking prednisone that can damage a patient's eyes, as well. The use of this drug can lead to cataracts or glaucoma. Left untreated, these conditions can cause partial or full blindness that is irreversible.
Prednisone also has the ability to interfere with body chemistry, making it difficult for the body to balance certain hormones. In particular, prednisone can interfere with the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. This is a system that regulates many things in the body, including digestion, stress, immune response and mood. Using prednisone for a long time can lead to problems with a person's ability to balance these hormones, which can then create problems in any of the systems these hormones regulate.
A patient's musculoskeletal system can also be affected by long-term use of prednisone. Muscular weakness can occur, as can a thinning of the bones leading to osteoporosis and an increased risk of fracture. Many of these conditions can be kept in check through dietary supplements and other medications. In children, one of the long-term effects of prednisone can be stunted growth, which needs to be carefully monitored by a doctor.