Arthritis: Prednisone

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Prednisone is a prescription steroid medication that is used to treat inflammation in the joints, skin, muscles, lungs and kidneys. Prednisone comes in a 1 milligram, 5 milligram or 50 milligram tablet.

Side Effects of Prednisone

Prednisone has a number of side effects. Common side effects include irritability, agitation and poor sleep. Patients may be able to manage less severe side effects with sleep or anti-anxiety medications. The more serious side effects of prednisone tend to be with long-term use. Long-term side effects of prednisone include:

• Weight gain and obesity 
• Osteonecrosis (a piece of bone dies or is infarcted) 
• Osteoporosis (sometimes called “steroid osteoporosis”) 
• Increase of blood sugar 
• High blood pressure (hypertension) 
• Cataracts 
• Muscle weakness 
• Weakened immune system 
• Increased risk of bacterial infections such as pneumonia, skin infections and bladder infections 
• Increased risk of viral infections such as shingles 
• Thinning of the skin 
• Nausea or vomiting 

Some of the more serious side effects of prednisone can be treated with medication or lifestyle changes whcih seeing a registered Dietician might help with. . While there are a number of side effects, it’s important to know that prednisone is a very effective drug if used appropriately to control diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.  

Prednisone & Diet

If you take prednisone for inflammation, a healthy diet and exercise are very important. Your diet should include lots of vegetables, fruits, low fat dairy and whole grains. Prednisone often stimulates or increases your appetite, making you crave carbohydrates and leading to weight gain, so you’ll need to be mindful of what you eat and of portion sizes. Because prednisone can cause osteoporosis, you need to have appropriate amounts of calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Calcium is found in foods such as milk, yogurt and cheese, but if you’re not getting enough calcium in your diet, you can take calcium supplements. Many people don’t get enough vitamin D from diet alone, so you can also take 2,000 units of vitamin D daily.

If you do stop taking prednisone, you must taper off slowly with the help of your family doctor or Rheumatologist . If you stop, you may experience symptoms such as:

• Nausea or vomiting 
• Diarrhea 
• Fatigue 
• Dizziness 

Your body makes about 7.5 milligrams of prednisone every day, but when you are on high doses of prednisone medication, your body stops making it, so you can get very sick if you stop cold turkey.

Talk to your rheumatologist if you'd like more information on prednisone

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