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Is There a Connection between Corticosteroids and Weight Gain?

By Jennifer Long
Updated May 17, 2024
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There is a definitive connection between corticosteroids and weight gain. One of the main side effects of corticosteroids includes an increased appetite and excess fat deposits, which causes weight gain. Although a change in appetite and fat deposits are large influences, fluid retention and the type and dose are influencing factors as well.

Corticosteroids are used as anti-inflammatory treatments for a variety of conditions, from rashes to asthma. Depending on the type of condition, corticosteroids are in cream or ointment, inhaled, or injection forms. Dosages vary based on the severity of the condition and form that is used. Due to the side effects that commonly occur, corticosteroids and weight gain are connected in several ways.

One of the influencing factors between corticosteroids and weight gain is an increase in appetite or an accumulation of extra fat deposits. An increased appetite causes people using corticosteroids to eat larger portions or more frequently, resulting in excess calories that turn into stored fat. Some forms of corticosteroids also cause fat deposits to accumulate, particularly in the face, abdomen, and back of the neck. Long-term treatment with corticosteroids increases fat deposits, which adds to the amount of weight gain that a patient can experience.

Fluid retention is another factor that connects corticosteroids and weight gain. Corticosteroids affect how the body balances electrolytes, water, and sodium. A common cause of weight gain is the fluid retention caused by corticosteroids. Fluctuations between water and sodium levels can cause the body to hold water. Additionally, corticosteroids can cause high blood pressure, which often coincides with fluid retention.

The form and dosage play a part in the connection between corticosteroids and weight gain. Oral corticosteroids are more likely to cause weight gain than other forms. Inhaled, injected, or topical forms of corticosteroids do not have potential for as much weight gain or many of the other symptoms that can lead to weight gain for many patients. Dosages affect the amount of weight gain experienced; lower doses do not cause the same symptom severity as higher doses.

Corticosteroids and weight gain are known to be connected to each other, regardless of the form that is used. Although one form of corticosteroid may not have identical symptoms, weight gain commonly occurs with most forms. Each patient will have different symptoms because of how the metabolism works differently, but most patients have experienced some amount of weight gain. Weight gain can be controlled while a person is using corticosteroids. A reduction in the amount of sodium that comes from food, increasing exercise, and regulating the amount of food that is eaten are beneficial to reducing weight gain.

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