Cortisone Treatment: Pros and Cons
Drugs from the cortisone family are prescribed in a variety of cases for both acute and chronic diseases. But these drugs, often called “steroids”, have their disadvantages. HMC’s specialists will explain how to use cortisone properly and how to prevent side effects and complications.
The use of drugs from the cortisone family dates back to the 1950’s and it was considered a breakthrough in treating such diseases as asthma, Crohn’s disease, arthritis, etc. But, just like any other drug, cortisone has side effects that need to be acknowledged and taken into consideration.
Drugs from the cortisone family, often called “steroids”, imitate the natural function of a hormone named Cortisol, which is secreted by the adrenals in cases of an infection and stress. These drugs are available in all kind of forms: ointment, inhalers, drops, spray, etc. All cortisone containing drugs treat infections and prevent tissue damage by suppressing the immune system, and, comparing to the natural hormone, their effect is much stronger.
What can you do to make the treatment effective?
Usually the cortisone treatment course starts with a high dose, which is then gradually lowered. The correct dosage is key to a successful treatment, since a low dose won’t cause the desired effect and a higher than needed dose can cause serious side effects.
In order for the treatment to be effective and safe there are some rules you need to follow:
- Never change the dosage on your own, strictly follow the doctor’s instructions
- When taking cortisone for a long period of time – don’t stop the treatment abruptly, but gradually lower the dosage until complete stop. This will allow the natural secretion of the hormone to restore.
- Never start a second course of treatment without consulting you treating physician.
How to lower the risk of possible side effects?
You should take cortisone with or after food in order to prevent stomach irritation. The risk of developing a stomach ulcer rises if you are taking any kind of anti-inflammatory drugs or aspirin, or drinking alcohol during the cortisone treatment course. Your doctor might prescribe additional medication to protect the stomach’s mucous layer and prevent the ulcer.
People taking cortisone are more prone to developing an infection due to the immune system suppression. This is why it is important to let your doctor know if you have any chronic infections, such as herpes.
When taking cortisone for a long time - it may disrupt the process of the natural hormone secretion by the adrenals. In order to prevent this complication you should take the drug in the mornings and not in the evening hours.
Also, when taking cortisone for a long time you should consult your doctor regarding a special diet, since the drug causes hunger and may lead to gaining extra weight and retaining fluids. During the whole course of treatment it is important to monitor glucose levels and to visit an ophthalmologist once year, since cortisone has been proven to cause glaucoma and cataract.
Children taking cortisone need to be closely monitored for timely diagnosis of possible developmental delay.