Hydrocortisone is a natural substance (corticosteroid hormone) made by the adrenal gland. It is used to treat conditions such as arthritis, blood/hormone/immune system disorders, skin and eye conditions, breathing problems, cancer, and severe allergies. It decreases your immune system's response to various diseases to reduce symptoms such as pain, swelling and allergic-type reactions.
Hydrocortisone is also used to treat low hydrocortisone levels caused by diseases of the adrenal gland (such as Addison's disease, adrenocortical insufficiency). Corticosteroids are needed in many ways for the body to function well. They are important for salt and water balance and keeping blood pressure normal.
Take this medication by mouth, with food or milk to prevent stomach upset, exactly as directed by your doctor. Take this medication with a full glass of water (8 ounces/240 milliliters) unless your doctor directs you otherwise.
Follow the dosing schedule carefully. The dosage and length of treatment are based on your medical condition and response to treatment. Your doctor may direct you to take hydrocortisone 1 to 4 times a day or take a single dose every other day. It may help to mark your calendar with reminders or use a pill box.
Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor. Some conditions may become worse when this drug is suddenly stopped. Your dose may need to be gradually decreased.
If you have used hydrocortisone regularly for a long time or in high doses, you may have withdrawal symptoms if the drug is suddenly stopped. To prevent withdrawal symptoms (such as weakness, weight loss, nausea, muscle pain, headache, tiredness, dizziness), your doctor may reduce your dose gradually. Consult your doctor or pharmacist for more details, and report any withdrawal reactions immediately. See also Precautions section.
Tell your doctor if your condition persists or worsens.
Nausea, heartburn, headache, dizziness, menstrual period changes, trouble sleeping, increased sweating, or acne may occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, tell your doctor or pharmacist promptly.
Remember that your doctor has prescribed this medication because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.
Because this drug works by weakening the immune system, it may lower your ability to fight infections. This may make you more likely to get a serious (rarely fatal) infection or make any infection you have worse. Tell your doctor immediately if you have any signs of infection (such as cough, sore throat, fever, chills). Use of this medication for prolonged or repeated periods may result in oral thrush or a yeast infection. Contact your doctor if you notice white patches in your mouth or a change in vaginal discharge.
This medication may infrequently make your blood sugar level rise, which can cause or worsen diabetes. Tell your doctor immediately if you develop symptoms of high blood sugar such as increased thirst and urination. If you already have diabetes, be sure to check your blood sugars regularly. Your doctor may need to adjust your diabetes medication, exercise program, or diet.
Tell your doctor immediately if any of these unlikely but serious side effects occur: unusual tiredness, swelling ankles/feet, unusual weight gain, vision problems, easy bruising/bleeding, puffy face, unusual hair growth, mental/mood changes (such as depression, mood swings, agitation), muscle weakness/pain, thinning skin, slow wound healing, bone pain.
This drug may infrequently cause serious (rarely fatal) bleeding from the stomach or intestines. If you notice any of the following unlikely but serious side effects, consult your doctor immediately: black/bloody stools, vomit that looks like coffee grounds, persistent stomach/abdominal pain.
A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, seek immediate medical attention if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing.
This is not a complete list of possible side effects. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.
In the US -
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
In Canada - Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345.
Before taking hydrocortisone, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are allergic to it; or if you have any other allergies. This product may contain inactive ingredients, which can cause allergic reactions or other problems. Talk to your pharmacist for more details.
Before using this medication, tell your doctor or pharmacist your medical history, especially of: eye disease (such as cataracts, glaucoma), heart problems (such as heart failure, recent heart attack), high blood pressure, liver disease, kidney disease, thyroid problems, diabetes, stomach/intestinal problems (such as diverticulitis, ulcer), brittle bones (osteoporosis), current/past infections (such as tuberculosis, positive tuberculosis test, herpes, fungal), bleeding problems, blood clots, mental/mood conditions (such as psychosis, anxiety, depression), low salts in the blood (such as low potassium or calcium), seizures.
This drug may make you dizzy. Do not drive, use machinery, or do any activity that requires alertness until you are sure you can perform such activities safely. Limit alcoholic beverages.
This medicine may cause stomach bleeding. Daily use of alcohol while using this medicine may increase your risk for stomach bleeding. Limit alcoholic beverages. Consult your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
Before having surgery, tell your doctor or dentist about all the products you use (including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and herbal products).
Using corticosteroid medications for a long time can make it more difficult for your body to respond to physical stress. Therefore, before having surgery or emergency treatment, or if you get a serious illness/injury, tell your doctor or dentist that you are using this medication or have used this medication within the past 12 months. Tell your doctor immediately if you develop unusual/extreme tiredness or weight loss. If you will be using this medication for a long time, carry a warning card or medical ID bracelet that identifies your use of this medication.
This medication may mask signs of infection. It can make you more likely to get infections or may worsen any current infections. Therefore, wash your hands well to prevent the spread of infection. Avoid contact with people who have infections that may spread to others (such as chickenpox, measles, flu). Consult your doctor if you have been exposed to an infection or for more details.
Hydrocortisone may cause vaccines not to work as well. Therefore, do not have any immunizations/vaccinations while using this medication without the consent of your doctor. Avoid contact with people who have recently received live vaccines (such as flu vaccine inhaled through the nose).
This medication may slow down a child's growth if used for a long time. Consult the doctor or pharmacist for more details. See the doctor regularly so your child's height and growth can be checked.
Older adults may be more sensitive to the effects of this drug, especially stomach bleeding.
During pregnancy, hydrocortisone should be used only when clearly needed. Discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor. Infants born to mothers who have been using this medication for an extended period of time may have hormone problems. Tell your doctor immediately if you notice symptoms such as persistent nausea/vomiting, severe diarrhea, or weakness in your newborn.
This medication passes into breast milk. However, this drug is unlikely to harm a nursing infant. Consult your doctor before breast-feeding.
The effects of some drugs can change if you take other drugs or herbal products at the same time. This can increase your risk for serious side effects or may cause your medications not to work correctly. These drug interactions are possible, but do not always occur. Your doctor or pharmacist can often prevent or manage interactions by changing how you use your medications or by close monitoring.
To help your doctor and pharmacist give you the best care, be sure to tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the products you use (including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and herbal products) before starting treatment with this product. While using this product, do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any other medicines you are using without your doctor's approval.
Some products that may interact with this drug include: aldesleukin, other drugs that weaken the immune system (such as azathioprine, cyclosporine, cancer chemotherapy), mifepristone, drugs that can cause bleeding/bruising (including antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel, "blood thinners" such as dabigatran/warfarin, NSAIDs such as aspirin/celecoxib/ibuprofen).
Other medications can affect the removal of hydrocortisone from your body, which may affect how hydrocortisone works. Examples include estrogens, azole antifungals (such as itraconazole), rifamycins (such as rifabutin), St. John's wort, drugs used to treat seizures (such as carbamazepine, phenytoin), among others.
If your doctor has directed you to take low-dose aspirin for heart attack or stroke prevention (usually at dosages of 81-325 milligrams a day), you should continue taking it unless your doctor instructs you otherwise. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more details.
This product may interfere with certain lab tests (such as skin tests). Make sure laboratory personnel and all your doctors know you use this drug.
This document does not contain all possible interactions. Therefore, before using this product, tell your doctor or pharmacist of all the products you use. Keep a list of all your medications with you, and share the list with your doctor and pharmacist.
If overdose is suspected, contact a poison control center or emergency room immediately. US residents can call their local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. Canada residents can call a provincial poison control center.
Do not share this medication with others.
If this medication is used for an extended time, laboratory and/or medical tests (such as blood sugar/mineral levels, blood counts, blood pressure, bone density tests, eye exams, height/weight measurements, X-rays) should be performed regularly to check for side effects. Consult your doctor for more details.
This medication may cause bone problems (osteoporosis). Lifestyle changes that may help reduce the risk of bone problems while taking this drug for an extended time include doing weight-bearing exercise, getting enough calcium and vitamin D, stopping smoking, and limiting alcohol. Discuss with your doctor lifestyle changes that might benefit you.
If you are taking this medication once daily and miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is near the time of the next dose, skip the missed dose and resume your usual dosing schedule. If you are taking this medication every other day, ask your doctor or pharmacist what you should do if you miss a dose.
Store the US product at room temperature between 68-77 degrees F (20-25 degrees C) away from light and moisture.
Store the Canadian product at room temperature between 59-86 degrees F (15-30 degrees C) away from light and moisture.
Do not store in the bathroom. Keep all medicines away from children and pets.
Do not flush medications down the toilet or pour them into a drain unless instructed to do so. Properly discard this product when it is expired or no longer needed. Consult your pharmacist or local waste disposal company for more details about how to safely discard your product.
MEDICAL ALERT: Your condition can cause complications in a medical emergency. For information about enrolling in MedicAlert, call 1-888-633-4298 (US) or 1-800-668-1507 (Canada).
Information last revised April 2013. Copyright(c) 2013 First Databank, Inc.
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