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What are the risks of injecting corticosteroid for osteoarthritis (OA)?

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Corticosteroids fight inflammation and can give you quick relief from osteoarthritis. The drug can raise your chances for infections, ulcers in your digestive tract, bleeding, eye problems such as cataracts and glaucoma, and higher blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Injecting corticosteroids directly into a joint lessens or removes most of these side effects. But there are less common side effects, including:

  • Injury to the joint tissues, mainly with repeated injections
  • Thinning of cartilage, the smooth covering that protects the bones in the joint
  • Weakening of the ligaments of the joint
  • More inflammation in the joint caused by a corticosteroid that has crystallized
  • Irritation of the nerves, by the needle or the medication itself
  • Infecting the joint
  • Whitening or thinning of skin at the injection site

SOURCES:

Arthritis Foundation / Arthritis Today: "Use of Corticosteroids in Osteoarthritis." 

Bellamy. , April 19, 2006. Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews

Cedars-Sinai Health System: “Joint Injections/Aspiration.”

Hospital for Special Surgery: “How to Reduce Corticosteroid Side Effects.”

University of Washington, Seattle: “Hip and Knee Questions and Answers.”

Reviewed by David Zelman on April 22, 2019

SOURCES:

Arthritis Foundation / Arthritis Today: "Use of Corticosteroids in Osteoarthritis." 

Bellamy. , April 19, 2006. Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews

Cedars-Sinai Health System: “Joint Injections/Aspiration.”

Hospital for Special Surgery: “How to Reduce Corticosteroid Side Effects.”

University of Washington, Seattle: “Hip and Knee Questions and Answers.”

Reviewed by David Zelman on April 22, 2019

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What precautions should be taken with corticosteroid injections for osteoarthritis (OA)?

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