Crohn’s Disease: Steroid Side Effects

If you have Crohn’s disease, your doctor may prescribe steroids at some point to help get flares under control. They ease inflammation because they calm down your overactive immune system.

They can have side effects, but they’re usually mild, and you won’t take the medication for very long.

Some Side Effects Are Mild

You may have:

You may notice a few of these, or none at all. It depends on your steroid dosage and how long you take the medication.

Others Are More Serious

The longer you take a steroid, the more likely you’ll get one or more of these:

Infections Are Common

Steroids slow your immune system. That can make it harder for your body to fight off infections.

While you take them, you’re more likely to have:

Tips to Manage Side Effects

Most people with Crohn’s take steroids for only a few weeks or months at a time. You’ll cut back on your dosage, and as you lower the amount, most side effects should ease up and go away on their own.

It’s important that you don’t just stop your medicine. If you have trouble with side effects, call your doctor. He can lower your dosage or have you take your steroids every other day.

You’ll probably start with the pill form of the drug. It goes into your bloodstream and spreads throughout your body.

But you may need the steroids to help only in a small area. This can help with side effects because the medication goes only where you have inflammation.

These options include:

  • Suppositories that go into your rectum and dissolve
  • Enemas
  • Rectal foams

Ask your doctor if one of these could work for you. You can’t use suppositories for too long because they can weaken the muscles in your rectum.

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Your doctor may give you calcium supplements or vitamin D to protect your bones while you’re on steroids. Bisphosphonate drugs, like alendronate (Fosamax) or risedronate (Actonel), may help prevent osteoporosis, too.

Exercise can help you keep your bones and muscles strong. Eat a healthy diet and stay active to manage your weight.

It’s not a good idea to take short-term steroids often, because the side effects only get worse. Talk to your doctor about another medicine to control your flares.

What Types of Steroids Treat Crohn’s?

Steroids are also called corticosteroids. The ones most often used for Crohn’s include:

Budesonide is a newer kind of steroid that can have fewer side effects. But it’s not right for everyone. It’s used only for people with mild to moderate Crohn’s in certain parts of your bowel.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on October 28, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Treatment for Crohn’s Disease.”

Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America: “CCFA Fact Sheet: News From the IBD Help Center: Corticosteroids,” “Corticosteroids.”

MayoClinic.org: “Crohn’s disease: Treatment and drugs,” “Prednisone and other corticosteroids.”

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