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Steroids to Treat Arthritis

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What Are the Side Effects 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
  • Bleeding into the joint
  • Rupture of a tendon
  • Skin discoloration
  • Weakening of bone, ligaments, and tendons (from frequent, repeated injections into the same area)

Not everyone will develop side effects and side effects vary from person to person. 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 Are the Possible Side Effects of Oral Steroids?

Side effects are more common with a higher dose and longer treatment. Side effects are much more common with oral drugs. Some side effects are more serious than others. Common side effects of oral steroids include:

  • Acne
  • Blurred vision
  • Cataracts or glaucoma
  • Easy bruising
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased appetite, weight gain
  • Increased growth of body hair
  • Insomnia
  • Lower resistance to infection
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nervousness, restlessness
  • Osteoporosis
  • Stomach irritation or bleeding
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Swollen, puffy face
  • Water retention, swelling
  • Worsening of diabetes

Please note: The side effects listed are the most common side effects. All possible side effects are not included. Always contact your doctor if you have questions about your personal situation.

Does Everyone Develop Side Effects of Steroids?

No. How often any side effect occurs varies from person to person. If steroid use is brief (from a few days to a few weeks), it is possible that none of the listed side effects will occur. The side effects listed generally do not occur when occasional steroid injections are given for arthritis, tendinitis, or bursitis.

However, if steroid use involves high doses and is prolonged (for a few months to several years), an increase in the number of side effects may occur.

How Can Steroid Side Effects Be Minimized?

To minimize the side effects of steroids, doctors follow these guidelines:

  • Use steroids only when necessary.
  • Monitor closely to detect the development of serious side effects.
  • If possible, use steroid injections for problems in a specific area.
  • Use the minimal dose required to gain control of the disease.
  • Reduce the dose gradually as long as the disease remains under control.
  • Monitor blood pressure often and treat if necessary.
  • Recommend calcium supplements, vitamin D, and bone-building prescription medications to help maintain bone strength (this is done especially if steroids will be taken for a long period of time).
  • Have your bone density checked every one to two years.

 

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