Steroids are hormones that the human body makes naturally. With the assistance of those hormones human body’s tissues, cells and organs do their works. To grow anyone needs a healthy balance of them and even to make babies those are required. Natural steroids are frequently used in medicine because they allow the physician to obtain precise responses from tissues. Synthetic steroids also exist, and those are known as manmade chemicals.
Steroids can be taken in a number of ways for many different types of arthritis and related conditions, as shown in the table below.
|How is the steroid taken?||What does it do?||What conditions is it used for?||What is a common name for this type?|
|By mouth – tablets, liquids, dissolvable tablets, also known as oral steroids||Reduces inflammation throughout the whole body.||Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout, other types of inflammatory arthritis or autoimmune conditions.||prednisolone, betamethasone, dexamethasone|
|By injection – into a joint, muscle, the blood or spinal area||Reduces inflammation in the area of the body where the injection is given.||Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout, other types of inflammatory arthritis or autoimmune conditions.||methylprednisolone, triamcinolone,
|By eye – as drops or ointments||Reduces inflammation in the eyes.||Uveitis||prednisolone|
|Applied to the skin as a cream or gel, also known as topical steroids||Reduces inflammation on the skin.||Psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis.||hydrocortisone, mometasone, betamethasone,
Steroids are usually only given for a short time to quickly treat flare-ups of your condition. Depending on which condition you have and what dose you’re prescribed, you may notice an improvement in your symptoms within a few days.
This page is about steroids that can be taken as tablets, liquids, creams and eye drops and ointments. Information about steroid injections is covered on a different page.
Side-effects and risks
As with all medicines, some people will have side effects. These are more likely if you’re on a high dose or if you’re taking steroids for a long time.
The person treating you will make sure you’re on the lowest possible dose to keep your condition under control. You might also be given a drug called a proton pump inhibitor or another medicine to protect your stomach.
Some of the side effects of steroids are shown below:
Tablets, liquids and soluble tablets
- weight gain and increased appetite
- stomach pains, indigestion or heartburn
- sleep problems
- changes in mood
- bruising easily
- thinning of the skin
- stretch marks.
Creams and gels
- stinging or burning where the cream has been applied
- changes in skin colour
- thinning of the skin
- stretch marks
- increased hair growth where the cream has been applied.
Eye drops and ointments
- stinging or burning in eyes after putting drops in
- a funny taste in the mouth after putting drops in.
Treatment with steroids may cause changes in mood – you may feel very high or very low. This may be more common in people with a previous history of mood disturbance. If you’re worried about this, talk to the person who is prescribing your steroids about it.
Taking steroid tablets for a long time can make you more likely to get infections. If you feel feverish or unwell, or develop any new symptoms after starting steroids, it’s important to tell your doctor or rheumatology nurse.
See your doctor or the person treating you straight away if you develop chickenpox, shingles or measles, or if you come into contact with someone who has any of these illnesses. Sometimes these diseases can be severe in people who are taking steroids, and you might need to have other treatment before you start to get better.
Steroids taken for a long time can also cause your muscles to become weaker, and they might occasionally affect periods