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What Are the Different Uses of Steroids?

By C.B. Fox
Updated May 17, 2024
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In medicine, there are many different uses for steroids. Androgenic, or anabolic, steroids may be used to increase the level of male sex hormones in a patient or to increase muscle mass in patients who have suffered from longterm illnesses. Corticosteroids are used to reduce an inflammation response. While these two types of steroids are produced naturally, some patients may be prescribed steroids when their own supply is insufficient.

There are a few different uses for steroids in the corticosteroid family. These hormones are used by the body to stop an inflammatory response. Though swelling can promote healing, it can also cause pain and irritation. Corticosteroids are used to decrease swelling, relieve pain, and stop itching or other irritation. Depending on the area affected by the inflammatory response, patients may take these drugs orally, by injection, or topically.

Corticosteroids may be used to treat both acute and chronic conditions. Allergic reactions, especially in those with systemic symptoms can be treated with the use of these drugs. It is also possible to treat allergic dermatitis with a topical corticosteroid cream. Some of the other uses of steroids such as these include the treatment of long-term inflammatory conditions such as lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. Patients who have been injured may also be given these hormones to stop swelling and relieve pain.

There are also a few uses for steroids in the androgenic, or anabolic, class. These steroids are responsible for regulating testosterone, the male sex hormone, in both men and women. Men who do not produce enough testosterone, such as men who have had testicular cancer that required removal of the testicles, may take these steroids so that their secondary sexual characteristics are not adversely affected. Adolescent males who do not produce enough testosterone may need to be given these kinds of steroids so that they develop properly. In women, the treatment of breast cancer is one of the uses for steroids in the class.

In both men and women, steroids in the androgenic class can also stimulate weight gain and increase muscle mass. These steroids may be given to patients who have suffered from a long illness that has resulted in a loss of body mass. Under the supervision of a doctor, the use of steroids to increase weight and muscle mass can be beneficial and safe. Healthy people who wish to gain muscle mass sometimes use steroids illegally, a practice that can lead to serious long-term health complications.

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