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Arthritis Health Center

Arthritis and Steroid Injections

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What Are the Expected Benefits of Steroid Injections?

Local steroid injections are generally well tolerated and are less likely than other forms of steroid medications to produce serious side effects.

Before a joint is injected with a steroid, joint fluid may be removed for testing. Testing the joint fluid is especially important if the diagnosis is uncertain. Steroid injections often reduce joint inflammation, helping preserve joint structure and function.

Steroid injections may help avoid the need for oral steroids or increased doses of oral steroids, which could have greater side effects.

What Are the Potential Disadvantages of Steroid Injections?

Steroid injections are one of the most effective ways to decrease pain and improve function, yet they generally do not cure the illness.

In rare instances, the following side effects might occur:

  • Infection
  • Allergic reactions
  • Local bleeding
  • Rupture of a tendon
  • Skin discoloration

Excessively frequent, repeated injections into the same area can cause the bone, ligaments, and tendons to weaken.

Not everyone will develop side effects. How often any side effect occurs varies from patient to patient. If steroid injections are infrequent (less than every three to four months), it is possible that none of the listed side effects will occur.

What Role Do Steroid Injections Play in an Overall Treatment Plan?

Steroid injections can be added to a treatment program that may already include pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or supportive devices such as canes and braces. Whether one or more of these treatment methods are used depends on the nature of the problem.

For example, in an otherwise healthy individual, tendinitis may be adequately treated with only a local steroid injection. However, in a patient with rheumatoid arthritis, injections are generally a small part of a multifaceted treatment approach.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on September 06, 2014
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