What is a Corticosteroid?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 March 2020
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A corticosteroid is a type of medication that is often referred to as a steroid. This powerful medication is used to treat inflammation. For example, it may be used to treat such things as swelling and redness. These medications are also used to treat itching that occurs as the result of allergies or other types of conditions. A doctor may prescribe them for treating a range of illnesses and conditions, including asthma, arthritis, and certain diseases; they are also prescribed for people who are dealing with severe allergies and certain conditions that affect the skin.

Sometimes a corticosteroid is used to replace something that is lacking in the human body. For example, the body sometimes fails to make enough of certain hormones. In such a case, a doctor may prescribe these drugs to help with the deficiency, replacing those hormones that are similar to cortisone.

Corticosteroids can cause side effects. For example, this medication can cause a person to be less able to resist and fight off infections. When someone is on this drug, he may not respond as well to medical treatment for certain infections. It’s a good idea for a person taking corticosteroids to contact his doctor if he develops an infection or symptoms that resemble those of the common cold, such a sore throat, coughing, or fever.


Other side effects include blurred or impaired sight and increased thirst. Some people may also have the urge to urinate more frequently than usual. However, these side effects are not very common. In rare cases, a person may develop sudden blindness after having corticosteroids injected into his head or neck. In other rare cases, a person may feel pain, burning, or irritation at the injection site.

Some rare side effects are mental in nature. For example, a person may hallucinate, become confused, or experience abnormal excitement while on this medication. Depression and mood swings may occur as well. Rarely, hives or skin irritation may occur at the injection site. Some people may also experience abdominal irritation, appetite changes, swelling of the extremities, irregular heart beats, muscle cramping, slow-to-heal wounds, and rapid weight gain.

A corticosteroid may be administered as an injection or taken orally. When injected, it can be administered into either a vein or a muscle. It may also be applied to the skin or injected into the joints. In some cases, this medication is included with other ingredients in medications like eye drops and asthma inhalers.


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Post 3

There are several different ways to take steroids. I have used the corticosteroid cream for arthritis in my hands, and have been able to avoid most of the bad side effects this way. You don't get the same relief, nor does it last as long as you would if you were taking them orally or by injection, but it does help without so many awful side effects.

After a long day of gardening, I will rub it into my hands and they feel much better in the morning. If I do this on a regular basis, I can tell a difference in the dexterity I have in my fingers.

Post 2

I have taken steroids at different times for inflammation for arthritis in my knees. I really don't like to take them any more than is absolutely needed. Corticosteroid drugs are known for their side effects - none of which are pleasant.

While I do get quick relief when I am taking the steroids, I can put on 5-10 pounds in just a few days. It doesn't matter how much I cut back on my food, or how much I exercise. Every time I start taking steroids, I gain weight. This is very frustrating, but seems to be the only thing that really touches the pain.

Post 1

I was given a prescription for steroids after I was hospitalized for a reaction to a bee sting. This was an oral corticosteroid that I was to take for four days after returning home.

This was the first time I had ever taken steroids and my doctor did warn me of one of the side effects I had. He said I probably would not be able to sleep, and he was right. After 2 days of no sleep, I couldn't stand it any longer and quit taking them.

I don't know what is in them that causes that side effect, and wonder if you had to take them long term, if your body would ever adjust to that.

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