Taking steroids is not limited to the anabolic type that are used illegally by some athletes. There’s another kind that’s taken to treat various health conditions. Also referred to as corticosteroid or glucocorticoids, these steroids don’t cause liver problems nor infertility.
Steroids that are taken for steroid treatment mimic the effects of cortisol, a hormone naturally produced by your adrenal glands during stressful situations associated with disease and injury. Steroid’s primary health benefits are reduction of inflammation and other immune system activity, for instance mucus production in the lungs.
Generally, inflammation and heightened immune activity is a healthy process because it’s what protects you against foreign invaders that can cause an infection, i.e. bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. However, this defense system doesn’t always function appropriately.
With certain chronic lung diseases, inflammatory conditions and autoimmune disorders, an overzealous immune system yields an abundance of inflammatory chemicals that can cause tissue damage. Steroid treatment can minimize this damage by suppressing your immune response. Also, taking steroids affects the function of white blood cells and limits mucus creation.
Steroids are used to treat:
- certain cancers
- multiple sclerosis
- rheumatoid arthritis
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- inflammatory bowel disease
- eczema, rash skin conditions
- systemic lupus erythematosus
- kidney inflammation that can lead to kidney failure
Whenever possible, steroids are only taken for a short period because of their potential for causing undesirable drug side effects, like:
- moon face
- weight gain
- bulging eyes
- mood swings
- easy bruising
- stretch marks
- upset stomach
- muscle cramps
- swollen stomach
- muscle twitching
- appetite increase
- stomach irritation
- muscle weakness
- extreme tiredness
- slow wound healing
- nervousness, restlessness
- hyperglycemia ~ worsens diabetes
- vision problems ~ cataracts, glaucoma, blurred vision
- immune suppression causes increased risk of infections
And this may not be all that you go through. Because some steroid side effects can be severe, the anti-inflammatory benefits of treatment may not be worth the health demoting price.
- skin creams
When you take steroids, your body will likely reduce the amount it generates naturally. And whenever your body is under stress, the demand for them increases. Therefore, the dosage of steroids you take may need to be increased during stressful situations.
If you’ve been taking steroids for a long time, you’ll probably have to tapper down your steroid dose because your body needs an opportunity to raise the amount it makes on its own. Otherwise, a sudden drop may throw you into steroid withdrawals.
Side effects caused by not enough steroids running around your system are:
So, follow your health care providers instructions carefully to allow for adrenal gland to recover its steroid seepage ability back to its normal level.