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Corticosteroids for Cystic Fibrosis

Examples

Oral

Generic Name Brand Name
methylprednisolone Medrol
prednisolone Orapred, Prelone
prednisone

Inhaled

Generic Name Brand Name
beclomethasone QVAR
budesonide Pulmicort, Rhinocort
flunisolide AeroBid
fluticasone Flovent
triamcinolone Azmacort

How It Works

Corticosteroids reduce inflammation in the lungs. They also decrease mucus and make it easier for the person to breathe. Corticosteroids can be given as a pill or liquid, as an injection, or with an inhaler. The kind of corticosteroid that will be prescribed depends on what symptoms are being treated.

Why It Is Used

Corticosteroids are widely used to treat many different types of inflammation. They have been tested for use in treating lung inflammation in cystic fibrosis. At this time, they are recommended only for people who have significant shortness of breath and wheezing or an infection caused by a fungus (allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis).

Oral corticosteroids are usually used only for short periods of time because of the side effects. Inhaled forms may be used for longer periods of time.

How Well It Works

Corticosteroids are the most powerful medicines for reducing inflammation in the lungs. More research is needed to find out the specific benefits and potential harmful side effects for people who have cystic fibrosis.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call911or other emergency services right away if you have:

Call your doctor if you have:

Common side effects of oral corticosteroids include:

  • Increased appetite.
  • Feeling nervous or restless.

Side effects of inhaled corticosteroids are uncommon at the usual dose. Side effects (many of which occur only with high doses) may include:

  • Sore mouth, sore throat, or hoarseness.
  • Cough and spasms of the large airways (bronchi).
  • Fungus infection in the mouth (thrush).
  • Temporary growth delay in children.
  • Decreased bone thickness in adults.
  • Clouding of the lens of the eye (cataract).
  • High blood pressure in the eye or fluid buildup in the eye (glaucoma). This may occur with high doses of inhaled corticosteroids used over a long period of time.

Using a spacer camera.gif with a metered-dose inhaler can help you avoid the side effects of inhaled steroids. After using an inhaler, it is also important to rinse your mouth out with water and then to spit out the water. Swallowing the water will increase the chance that the medicine will get into your bloodstream, which may increase the side effects of the medicine.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Women who take oral corticosteroids during pregnancy have a slightly higher chance of having a baby with birth defects.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Susanna McColley, MD - Pediatric Pulmonology
Last Revised May 14, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 14, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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