Prednisolone is a steroid drug used as a replacement for hydrocortisone, a hormone produced by adrenal gland. Sudden withdrawal of prednisolone may result in severe health related problems.
Hydrocortisone, a hormone produced by adrenal gland, plays an important role in survival by regulating bodily functions. Production of hydrocortisone is affected in people who are suffering from Addison’s disease (a disease that affects adrenal cortex gland), in people who have birth defect, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, or in people whose adrenal gland has been removed by surgery. Prednisolone is a steroid used as a replacement for hydrocortisone in people who have a deficiency.
How Does Prednisolone Work
When the prescribed dose is taken properly, prednisolone controls metabolism, inflammation, immune system, salt and water balance, development of sexual characteristics. Prednisolone also helps prevent the rejection of organ transplants. On an average, 5 mg of prednisolone consumed per day is equivalent to the amount of natural steroid produced by the outer portion of adrenalin glands.
Prednisolone and prednisone are roughly equivalent steroids, which are prescribed for similar treatments. However, the difference being, prednisone is in the inactive form which is converted into prednisolone in the liver, after which it becomes active. However, in case of liver failure prednisone cannot be used. In some cases, the liver might not be able to adequately convert prednisone into prednisolone. Hence, prednisolone is commonly prescribed as compared to prednisone. It is also commonly used as a veterinary medicine too. Prednisolone is available in the form of tablets, soluble tablets, liquid, eye and ear drops. As prednisolone is primarily a steroid, it does affect our health in a positive as well as negative manner.
Possible Side Effects
Though its benefits outweigh the potential risks, the side effects that it may cause, mainly depend upon the length of time and amount of dosage you consume.
• Mood Swings
Stress, sudden anxiety, depression, restlessness, euphoria, etc., may be experienced by people who are consuming prednisolone for mental illness, or those who are having weak mental health. This may affect the friends or family members of that individual too. It will be best to inform your folks earlier that you are under medication and there are chances of such mood swings.
• Changes in Blood Sugar Levels
Prednisolone has a tendency to raise the glucose level in the blood. In some cases this change may not affect significantly, but it can turn serious in case of diabetics, people who have a medical history of borderline diabetes, who have a diabetic family history, or pregnant women.
• Weight Gain
This is one of the most common and dreaded side-effects of consuming prednisolone. Increased appetite leads to weight gain and deposition of fat on unwanted body parts like the face, making it moon-like; on the neck, resulting into a buffalo hump. Patients may also develop purple-colored scratch marks or lines on the skin due to damaged blood vessels that resemble a medical condition known as Cushing’s Syndrome (Cushingoid).
• Affects Immune System
Weakened healing ability of body and increased susceptibility towards infections, sleep disorders, blood clots, muscle cramps, water and salt retention in the body, etc., may be observed. If you are, or have been, a patient of tuberculosis, chances are that it may recur due to the prednisolone dosage.
• Hormonal Changes in Women
Due to fat deposition, breasts appear swollen. High dosages of steroids may lead to problems related to menstrual cycle in women. They may experience irregularity in menstrual cycle, or no menstrual cycle occurrence at all.
• Eye Problems
In many cases, people undergoing steroid treatment complain about eye-related problems such as increased pressure of fluid within the eye, which is also known as intra-ocular fluid pressure or glaucoma, wearing away of outer cover of the eye (the outer cover becomes thin and susceptible to various eye-related infections), and some people complain about development of cataract in their eye. Patients may suffer from blindness if the pressure in the blood vessels of the eye increases.
• Upset Digestive System
This steroid can also interact with the other medications or drugs that the patient is taking. For example, if a person is taking heart, brain or any vital organ-related medication, then intake of this steroid can lead to increased blood pressure. People undergoing treatment for inflammation may experience stomach and digestive system-related problems.
• Other Problems
Some people may complain about increased hair growth on the entire body, bed wetting at night, headaches, decrease in bone density, etc. Prednisolone medication can also cause acne, stretch marks, slow wound healing, or night sweating.
• Avascular Necrosis
This side-effect is not common, however, high dosage of prednisolone may cause avascular necrosis or bone death, especially at the weight carrying bones like the hip-joint.
Our bones are also living organs of our body and everyday old bone cells die and are replaced by new ones. Continued high dosage of prednisolone reduces the development of new bone cells, thus reducing bone density and weakening them.
Prednisolone has to be taken strictly as per instructions by your doctor, or by following the instructions on the manual. The dosage varies according to your age, gender, type of treatment, your response to the treatment, and the use of other interfering medication. Your doctor will provide you a steroid treatment card if you need to be on medication for over 3 weeks. You need to carry this card along each time you visit a doctor to monitor your progress.
Though prednisolone is highly beneficial for certain treatments, its side-effects can occur depending upon its dose, as well as the patient’s physical and mental well-being. Withdrawing the dose completely because of the side-effects may also cause problems like muscle soreness, fatigue, etc. However, these can be dealt with, if the withdrawal of the dose becomes necessary. In some cases, reducing the dose may be needed, but should be done strictly under the doctor’s guidance. Remember, that prednisolone can be a life-saver in many cases if taken exactly as prescribed when the doctor is well-informed of your medical history. Still, you need to see a doctor in case of any slightest changes in your systems.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.