What Are the Benefits of Corticosteroid Therapy?

Amanda Barnhart
Amanda Barnhart
Nurse
Nurse

Corticosteroid therapy is used for a variety of conditions to reduce swelling in various areas of the body. Conditions that commonly respond well to corticosteroid therapy include arthritis, breathing problems, allergies, and chronic skin problems, such as psoriasis. These medications can also encourage the production of red blood cells in people with certain types of anemia. Corticosteroids work by blocking the immune system from producing substances that lead to allergic and inflammatory responses. This type of therapy has several benefits because it is often extremely effective and requires only short-term treatment.

The medication given during corticosteroid therapy is available in several different forms. Patients who do not respond well to one form of the medication may take it another form with positive results. Certain forms of corticosteroids are not suitable for some conditions, so it is best for patients to discuss their options with their doctors. Corticosteroids are often taken orally or as a muscle or vein injection. Injections directly into swollen joints can be extremely beneficial for patients with arthritis, and topical corticosteroids are helpful for many inflammatory skin conditions.

Patients who go through corticosteroid therapy for chronic inflammatory conditions usually respond very well to the medication. While more conservative treatment methods are often tried before resorting to corticosteroid therapy, patients who do not experience symptom relief from milder medications and other forms of treatment, such as physical therapy, often find relief from corticosteroids. It may take several days for the oral form of the drug to build up in the patient's system, but injected forms often provide immediate relief.

One of the main benefits of corticosteroid therapy is that the patient does not have to take corticosteroids on an ongoing basis. Long-term use of corticosteroids can cause serious side effects, including salt retention, excessive weight gain, muscle weakness, bone thinning, and eye problems. For these reasons, corticosteroids are typically prescribed for only a few days or weeks at a time. Corticosteroids are rarely used for several months at a time, though this can be done for serious conditions that do not respond to other treatments.

Many common side effects associated with short-term corticosteroid therapy can be easily managed. Some of the symptoms resolve on their own, while others require minor lifestyle changes. The most common side effects include gastrointestinal upset and weight gain. Taking the medication in the morning with food can help relieve stomach upset, and choosing healthy foods high in fiber helps create a sensation of fullness and keeps weight gain to a minimum. Other side effects, such as high blood pressure or extreme behavior changes, may need to be evaluated by patients' doctors so that their dosages of corticosteroids can be adjusted as necessary.

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