Posted in 20 by Amelia Grant

How to Cope With Side Effects From Steroids When You Have RA

How to Cope With Side Effects From Steroids When You Have RA

When you have a chronic inflammatory condition like rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, or multiple sclerosis, you nearly always have to take medicine. There's a strong possibility you'll be administered a steroid like prednisone along the road, in addition to DMARDs and biologics that treat symptoms and prevent long-term joint damage. But what is this substance precisely, and how does it affect the human body? Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about prednisone, including ways to minimize its negative side effects.

When and Why Is Prednisone Used for RA?

Autoimmune illnesses that cause inflammation must be managed on a regular basis. Prednisone should not be used for more than a few weeks. While some medications target the source of inflammation, cortisone injections can help alleviate the unpleasant symptoms of a RA flare, for example, while you wait for longer-acting medications to kick in. Prednisone is prescribed for RA because it relieves pain quickly. Prednisone can improve a person's mood and reduce inflammation within hours to days.

How Does Prednisone Work?

Prednisone suppresses the immune system. In a nutshell, it urges the body's renegade immune cells to chill out. This is beneficial because the immune system mistakenly assaults healthy tissue in autoimmune diseases, creating inflammation in the joints and throughout the body. Prednisone's drawback is that it inhibits the entire immune system, resulting in additional dangers and side effects, such as an increased chance of infection. However, rather than taking the medicine as a pill, you can have it injected directly into certain joints, which can limit undesired side effects.

What Are the Side Effects?

Prednisone side effects can range from moderate to severe, depending on your dosage and how long you take it. Diarrhea and stomach pain, mood swings, insomnia, visual issues, hyperglycemia and diabetes, weaker bones, weight gain, facial swelling ("moon face"), and an increased risk of infection are all possible adverse effects. So, how can you receive the drug's targeted effect—reduced pain and swelling—while also lowering the risk of these unpleasant side effects, or managing them if they do occur?

How Much Is Too Much?

The adverse effects of prednisone are mostly determined by the dose you take. A low dose (less than 20 mg per day) suggests fewer adverse effects, while a high dose (more than 20 mg per day) means more. It's a good idea to start with the perspective that prednisone should only be used in small doses (under 10 mg per day if possible).

How Long Should I Take it?

Similarly, the longer you use prednisone, the more likely you are to experience negative effects. In fact, several of the more significant side effects of prednisone, such as bone weakening (osteoporosis) and an increased risk of infection, are more likely to occur as a result of long-term use (meaning more than a month or so). Again, it is advised to approach treatment with the expectation of just using prednisone for a limited period of time—ideally, two weeks or less.

Are Longer-Term Meds Better?

While starting longer-term RA medications (usually disease-modifying anti-rheumatic medicines, or DMARDs) can be intimidating, it's likely your best option for preventing irreparable joint damage and flare-ups—and it also helps you avoid prednisone, which has more negative effects over time than DMARDs. Thinking about taking some of these long-term DMARD drugs for the rest of your life can be frightening at times. We won't need to utilize steroids as often if folks get well-controlled on such meds and aren't reluctant to try or start them.

What About GI Side Effects?

Some of the more immediate negative effects of steroid use include stomach distress, diarrhea, and a possibly increased risk of stomach ulcers. Prednisone should not be taken with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen to reduce the risk of these side effects. Your doctor may also recommend that you take another medication, such as a proton-pump inhibitor, to help protect your stomach.

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Amelia Grant

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