When are corticosteroids used to treat rheumatoid arthritis?
Learn all about cortisone and corticosteroids, including their side effects and when they are recommended in the treatment of arthritis.
referred to as cortisone, corticosteroids are drugs with the same chemical
structure as the hormones (glucocorticoids) produced by the adrenal glands.
Naturally occurring glucocorticoids are involved in a variety of bodily
functions, including balancing stress response and regulating hormone secretion
and inflammatory processes.
on the other hand, are drugs that are artificially manufactured in a
laboratory. They have been widely used in the treatment of a variety of
illnesses for over 65 years. In fact, corticosteroids were first used to treat a
29 year old woman with rheumatoid arthritis in 1949. The improvement was
immediate… as were the side effects. To this day, the side effects associated
with corticosteroids make prescribing them a controversial issue.
How do corticosteroids
act in the same way as the naturally occurring glucocorticoids secreted by the
adrenal glands. Their main therapeutic action is immunosuppressant, which
explains why they are often used to treat allergic and rheumatic diseases like
regimes vary on a case-by-case basis. More often than not, corticosteroids
(like prednisone, prednisolone and deflazacort) are taken orally and are
absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, although in severe cases they can
be administered intravenously (directly into the bloodstream).
act directly on the cells, impeding the release of the substances that provoke signs
or symptoms of inflammation like pain, heat, redness and swelling. They also
stop new cells from rushing to the inflammation site and prolonging the
What are they
are used to control the inflammation associated with arthritis. Their use is
generally only recommended during flare-ups, with the person being weaned back
off them once symptoms clear up.
What are the
stated, the use of corticosteroids is a controversial issue. This is because
they are known to provoke a variety of side effects when used over prolonged
periods of time. Generally speaking, these side effects disappear once
treatment has been suspended or the dosage has been lowered. That said, it’s
important you read up on what to expect before starting treatment. The most
common side effects include Cushing syndrome (provoking central obesity – a
build-up of fat on the body and face), acne, increased growth of body hair, rises
in blood sugar levels and blood pressure and osteoporosis (bone decalcification).
Corticosteroids occasionally cause changes to the immune system, opening the
individual up to the increased risk of infections.
stated, it’s important to remember that these side effects are reversible. There
are also several things you can do to control a lot of these symptoms. For
example, most people (as long as they’re not diabetic) are able to control the
rise in blood sugar levels by sticking to a low-calorie diet. If you have diabetes
you will need to adjust your treatment and make sure you get your blood sugar
levels checked regularly. When it comes to osteoporosis, one of the symptoms
that gives most cause for concern, you can protect yourself by increasing the
amount of calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Your doctor may decide to
prescribe some kind of supplement or a medication to control the osteoporosis.
your doctor is always the best person to go to for advice if you have any
doubts concerning the use of corticosteroids. Let him know your worries and
concerns. He’ll be able to point you in the right direction.
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