What Is the Relationship between Corticosteroids and Blood Pressure?

Marlene de Wilde
Marlene de Wilde
Long-term use of high-dosage steroids can cause bipolar behavior, irritability and depression.
Long-term use of high-dosage steroids can cause bipolar behavior, irritability and depression.

The primary relationship between corticosteroids and blood pressure is that taking the medication may cause an increase in blood pressure, especially if hypertension is a pre-existing condition. Taking corticosteroids may also make high blood pressure more difficult to control. Also known as cortisone or steroids, corticosteroids are used to treat inflammatory diseases and use can cause predictable side effects such as high blood pressure.

Corticosteroids may make high blood pressure harder to control.
Corticosteroids may make high blood pressure harder to control.

Steroids may affect the balance of water and electrolytes such as sodium, causing fluid retention which, in turn, can result in an increase in blood pressure. For patients taking corticosteroids and blood pressure is one of the side effects, a reduction in the dietary intake of sodium or making other lifestyle changes may be effective in controlling the condition. Blood pressure should be checked regularly and, if reducing the amount of salt intake is not reducing the symptoms, then doctors may prescribe medication to lower blood pressure.

Individuals on corticosteroids may need regular blood pressure monitoring.
Individuals on corticosteroids may need regular blood pressure monitoring.

Some of the side effects of corticosteroids can cause serious health problems. These may become apparent within days of starting corticosteroids and blood pressure is one of these, as well as glaucoma, mood swings and weight gain. Over the long term, taking steroids containing cortisone may result in cataracts, high blood sugar and osteoporosis. To minimize the side effects of corticosteroids, doctors should prescribe the minimal dose required and reduce the dose when the disease is under control. Calcium supplements can be taken to aid the maintenance of bone density.

Conditions such as several lung diseases require the use of oral steroids for prolonged periods and this is when corticosteroid side effects usually occur, though not necessarily for everybody. As well as the connection between corticosteroids and blood pressure, other conditions caused by long-term, high dosage steroids includes emotional disturbances such as depression, hallucinations and irritability, stomach and esophagus irritation and a tendency to easy bruising and thinning of the skin.

The adrenal gland secretes corticosteroid hormones which control the body's use of fats, proteins and carbohydrates as well as suppressing the inflammatory system and affecting the immune system. Corticosteroids mimic the action of cortisol, which plays an important role in controlling the balance of salt and water in the body. Whereas the drug used to cause major side effects, more modern versions are less likely to create problems as long as the well-known risk factors are monitored closely and treated in a timely manner to keep their effects within a reasonable limits. At times, the drawbacks of the drug may outweigh the benefits and other treatments be sought instead.

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    • Long-term use of high-dosage steroids can cause bipolar behavior, irritability and depression.
      Long-term use of high-dosage steroids can cause bipolar behavior, irritability and depression.
    • Corticosteroids may make high blood pressure harder to control.
      Corticosteroids may make high blood pressure harder to control.
    • Individuals on corticosteroids may need regular blood pressure monitoring.
      Individuals on corticosteroids may need regular blood pressure monitoring.