What is Prednisone

Prednisone is a synthetic hormone commonly referred to as a “steroid”. Prednisone is very similar to cortisone, a natural corticosteroid hormone produced by the body’s adrenal glands.

Prednisone is used for the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Polymyalgia Rheumatica, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, diseases that cause inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis), other types of arthritis, and for many other types of diseases.

Prednisone suppresses the body’s immune system and also works to reduce inflammation that people experience as heat, redness, swelling, and pain.

Corticosteroids like prednisone are very different from anabolic steroids, the risky steroids related to male hormones that some athletes abuse for performance gains in sports and bodybuilding.

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Dr. John Wade, MD, FRCPC, Rheumatologist, talks about Prednisone and what it is used to treat in Rheumatology.

Quiz: Do You Understand Prednisone?

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Poor sleep can be a side effect of prednisone.

Prednisone has a number of side effects. Common side effects include irritability, agitation and poor sleep. Patients may be able to manage less severe side effects with sleep or anti-anxiety medications.

High blood sugar is not a side effect of prednisone.

Long-term side effects of prednisone include weight gain and obesity, osteoporosis, cataracts, high blood sugar, muscle weakness and thinning of the skin.

Prednisone can stimulate your appetite.

Prednisone often stimulates or increases your appetite, making you crave carbohydrates and leading to weight gain, so you’ll need to be mindful of what you eat and of portion sizes.

Prednisone can cause osteoporosis.

Because prednisone can cause osteoporosis, you need to have appropriate amounts of calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Calcium is found in foods such as milk, yogurt and cheese, but if you’re not getting enough calcium in your diet, you can take calcium supplements. Many people don’t get enough vitamin D from diet alone, so you can also take 2,000 units of vitamin D daily.

You can quit taking prednisone without worrying about side effects, as your body makes it anyways.

If you do stop taking prednisone, you must taper off slowly with the help of your doctor. Your body makes about 7.5 milligrams of prednisone every day, but when you are on high doses of prednisone medication, your body stops making it, so you can get very sick if you stop cold turkey.
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Dr. John Wade, MD, FRCPC, Rheumatologist, discusses the varied side effect profile of Prednisone and what patients need to monitor for while on Prednisone.

Dr. John Wade, MD, FRCPC, Rheumatologist, talks about how prednisone is dosed depending on the condition and it’s severity.

Dr. John Wade, MD, FRCPC, Rheumatologist, talks about how to titrate off of prednisone safely.

Prednisone – Dose, Administration, and Frequency

Typical doses for Prednisone vary, and can range from 1 mg per day to 100 mg per day.

Sometimes Prednisone is prescribed every other day and sometimes it is prescribed two or even three times a day.

The dose may be increased during stressful events like surgery or another medical illness to mimic the body’s normal hormone response.

Taking Prednisone

Prednisone is usually available as oral tablets. Other medications that are similar to Prednisone called corticosteroids may be given by injection.

Prednisone is often best taken in the morning with breakfast. This schedule mimics the body’s natural production of corticosteroid hormones.

Most patients start to feel the effects of prednisone within a few days. Some patients will start feeling better hours after taking the first pill.

If you take prednisone and forget to take a dose at your usual time, but remember later the same day, take it immediately.

If you take prednisone daily and forget the previous day’s dose, skip that dose and resume taking the usual dose for today.

If you take prednisone on alternating days and forget the previous day’s dose, take that dose today, and then tomorrow resume the schedule of alternating days.

Dr. John Wade, MD, FRCPC, Rheumatologist, talks about how important diet is when taking prednisone.

How Prednisone Works

Prednisone is a synthetic corticosteroid that is similar to cortisone, a natural corticosteroid hormone produced in the body’s adrenal glands.

Prednisone suppresses the body’s immune system, and prevents the release of substances in the body that can cause inflammation (heat, redness, swelling, and pain).

Although corticosteroids like Prednisone are often called “steroids”, they are very different from the types of male-hormone-related steroids that some athletes might abuse for strength or performance gains in sports.

Despite Prednisone’s potential for side effects, the combined immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory effects of the medication, as well as its relatively fast action compared to many other treatments, can make it a very useful tool to treat many forms of arthritis.

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