Prednisone is in a class of medications called corticosteroids. It works to treat patients with low levels of corticosteroids by replacing steroids that are normally produced naturally by the body. It works to treat other conditions by reducing swelling and redness and by changing the way the immune system works. Prednisone is not a common drug of abuse. Although obtaining it does require a prescription, it is not listed as a controlled substance by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Prednisone is used alone or with other medications to treat the symptoms of low corticosteroid levels (lack of certain substances that are usually produced by the body and are needed for normal body functioning). Prednisone is also used to treat other conditions in patients with normal corticosteroid levels.
These conditions include certain types of arthritis; severe allergic reactions; multiple sclerosis (a disease in which the nerves do not function properly); lupus (a disease in which the body attacks many of its own organs); and certain conditions that affect the lungs, skin, eyes, kidneys blood, thyroid, stomach, and intestines. Prednisone is also sometimes used to treat the symptoms of certain types of cancer.
When should you take prednisone?
Prednisone comes as a tablet, delayed-release tablet, as a solution (liquid), and as a concentrated solution to take by mouth. Prednisone is usually taken with food one to four times a day or once every other day. Your doctor will probably tell you to take your dose(s) of prednisone at certain time(s) of day every day. Your personal dosing schedule will depend on your condition and on how you respond to treatment. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take prednisone exactly as directed.
Does Prednisone Make You Gain Weight?
Weight gain is a common side effect when taking medications like Prednisone long term. In a 2006 study, between 60% to 80% of people taking oral corticosteroids for more than 2 months gained weight since starting their prescriptions. A review from 2006 showed that people taking low doses of prednisone gained between 4% and 8% of their body weight over a 2-year period.
If you’re going to be taking Prednisone for an extended period of time, ask your provider the best way to help limit this side effect, and let them know if you start to notice any weight gain. Keep in mind if you’re only taking corticosteroids for a week or two, you are very unlikely to gain weight.
What are the other side effects of Prednisone?
Prednisone may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- inappropriate happiness
- extreme changes in mood
- changes in personality
- bulging eyes
- thin, fragile skin
- red or purple blotches or lines under the skin
- slowed healing of cuts and bruises
- increased hair growth
- changes in the way fat is spread around the body
- extreme tiredness
- weak muscles
- irregular or absent menstrual periods
- decreased sexual desire
- increased sweating
Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
- vision problems
- eye pain, redness, or tearing
- sore throat, fever, chills, cough, or other signs of infection
- loss of contact with reality
- muscle twitching or tightening
- shaking of the hands that you cannot control
- numbness, burning, or tingling in the face, arms, legs, feet, or hands
- upset stomach
- irregular heartbeat
- sudden weight gain
- shortness of breath, especially during the night
- dry, hacking cough
- swelling or pain in the stomach
- swelling of the eyes, face, lips, tongue, throat, arms, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
Prednisone may slow growth and development in children. Your child’s doctor will watch his or her growth carefully. Talk to your child’s doctor about the risks of giving prednisone to your child.
Prednisone may increase the risk that you will develop osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about the risks of taking prednisone and about things that you can do to decrease the chance that you will develop osteoporosis.
Some patients who took prednisone or similar medications developed a type of cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma. Talk to your doctor about the risks of taking prednisone.
Prednisone may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while you are taking this medication.