Table of Contents
What exactly are steroids?
Steroids are a synthetic version of molecules known as hormones that are produced naturally in the human body and are used to enhance athletic performance. Steroids are intended to function in a similar manner to these hormones in order to alleviate inflammation.
They are also referred to as corticosteroids, and they are distinct from the anabolic steroids that bodybuilders and sportsmen utilize.
Steroids will not heal your illness, but they will significantly reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms such as edema, pain, and stiffness that you are experiencing.
In most cases, inflammation is caused by the body’s normal response to an infection or bacterium. Your immune system creates extra fluid in order to fight infections or germs, which causes swelling, redness, and heat in the region that has been infected. If you have ever had a cut or a wound on your skin, you may have observed something like this.
It is possible that the immune system may mistakenly generate inflammation in the joints or other regions of the body in certain disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, which can result in irreversible damage if not treated promptly. Steroids may be given to help lessen the severity of this immunological response.
What method is used to administer steroids?
Steroid drugs are available in a variety of forms, each of which differs in terms of how quickly they dissolve and how long they remain in the body.
Steroids may be administered locally, to the exact location where a problem is present, or systemically, which implies throughout the whole “system” or body, depending on the situation.
Local steroid therapies include joint injections, eye drops, ear drops, and skin lotions, to name just a few examples. Systemic steroid therapies include oral medications (taken by mouth) as well as medications that are administered directly into a vein (intravenously or IV) or muscle (myocardial infusion, for example) (intramuscularly). Systemic steroids are transported throughout the body via the bloodstream to numerous organs.
It is preferable to use local steroid therapies rather than systemic steroids wherever feasible in order to limit the risk of adverse effects.
What is the mechanism of action of steroids?
Anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects of steroids are achieved by suppressing the immune system’s activity. Immune response to infection and foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses is facilitated by inflammation, which is a process in which the body’s white blood cells and chemicals work together to defend the body. Certain illnesses, on the other hand, are caused by a malfunctioning of the body’s defensive mechanism (the immune system). This might result in inflammation that works against the body’s tissues, causing harm to them. Among the signs of inflammation are:
Steroids work by inhibiting the generation of molecules that are responsible for inflammation. This helps to minimize the amount of tissue injury to a bare minimum. Steroids also have the additional effect of suppressing the immune system’s activity by altering the way white blood cells function.
When are steroids administered?
Steroids are used to treat a variety of disorders in which the body’s defensive mechanism fails to function effectively, resulting in tissue destruction. In certain cases, steroids may be the primary treatment for an illness. Other conditions may need the use of steroids only in certain circumstances or when other treatment options have failed.
When it comes to treating specific rheumatologic inflammatory disorders, steroids are often employed. These include:
Systemic vasculitis is a kind of vasculitis that affects the whole body (inflammation of blood vessels).
Myositis is a kind of muscular inflammation (inflammation of the muscle).
Rheumatoid arthritis is a kind of arthritis that affects the joints (chronic inflammatory arthritis).
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a kind of autoimmune illness (a generalized disease caused by abnormal immune system function).
What are the advantages of steroids?
When inflammation threatens to harm essential bodily organs, steroids may be lifesaving, and in many cases, they can even save the organs themselves. People with lupus or vasculitis, for example, may benefit from steroids because they may prevent the progression of renal inflammation, which can lead to kidney failure. Steroid medication may be able to eliminate the requirement for renal dialysis or transplantation in these individuals.
Low dosages of steroids may be effective in providing considerable pain and stiffness alleviation for persons suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Higher dosages of steroids used for a short period of time may be beneficial in helping a person recover from a severe flare-up of arthritis.
What criteria will my doctor use to determine whether or not steroids are the best course of action?
The choice to give steroids is always based on the unique circumstances of each patient. Your healthcare practitioner will take into account your age, physical activity level, and any other medications you are currently using. Prior to beginning steroid treatment, your healthcare professional will make certain that you understand the possible advantages and hazards of the medication.
The possible advantages and hazards of steroid use differ depending on the following factors:
The kind and severity of the condition that is being treated are considered.
It depends on whether or not there are any other therapeutic options available.
The existence or absence of any other severe medical conditions is taken into consideration.
The following are some of the probable negative effects of steroids.
The likelihood of experiencing adverse effects is dependent on the dosage, the kind of steroid used, and the length of time spent on the medication. Some adverse effects are more severe than others, depending on their severity. The following are some of the most common negative effects of systemic steroids:
Increased desire to eat.
Weight growth is a problem.
Mood swings may occur.
Vision that is hazy.
Body hair is growing at a faster rate.
Bruising is simple.
Reduced resistance to infection is a good thing.
Face that is swollen and “puffy”
Diabetes is diagnosed when it first appears or worsens.
High blood pressure symptoms such as the onset or worsening.
Irritation in the stomach
Nervousness and restlessness are common.
Sleeping is a challenge.
Cataracts or glaucoma are two conditions that may occur.
Water retention and edema are two symptoms of this condition.
These are the adverse effects that are most often experienced. There are no provisions for all probable negative effects. If you have any queries concerning your personal circumstances, you should always consult with your doctor.
Is it true that everyone has side effects?
Not every patient will have adverse consequences. The frequency with which any adverse effect manifests itself varies from person to person.
If steroid usage is limited in duration (from a few days to a few weeks), it is conceivable that none of the adverse effects described may manifest themselves. When steroid injections are administered for arthritis, tendonitis, or bursitis on an as-needed basis, the negative effects indicated above are unlikely to manifest themselves. However, if steroid usage is carried out at high dosages and for an extended period of time (ranging from a few months to several years), an increase in the number of adverse effects may be seen. The use of high-dose steroids for an extended period of time is only authorized in the case of severe diseases that pose a substantial danger to the patient’s health.
What measures may be taken to reduce the adverse effects of steroid use?
A number of criteria are followed by healthcare practitioners in order to reduce the negative effects of steroids:
Steroids should only be used when absolutely required.
Keep a tight eye on the patient in order to discover any early indicators of major side effects.
If at all feasible, employ local steroids to treat localized issues.
Use the least dosage necessary to maintain illness control.
Continue to gradually reduce the dosage so long as the illness is under control.
Monitor your blood pressure and blood sugar levels often, and get treatment if required.
Bone density should be monitored, and drugs and nutrients to promote bone health should be prescribed.
There are additional approaches that may be used to avoid specific side effects, and they should be explored with your healthcare professional on an individual basis.
What causes weight gain and why does it happen?
However, there are certain harmful side effects of steroids, including weight gain. The most often reported side consequence of steroid usage, according to one research, was weight gain, which was experienced by 70 percent of people who were administered the medicines.
Bodyweight increases as a result of steroid usage because they change the body’s electrolyte and water balances, as well as its metabolism — which includes how the body consumes and stores lipids, amino acids, and protein as well as carbs and glucose, among other things. These variables contribute to weight growth by generating the following effects:
changes in where the body stores fat
Many people on steroids notice increased fat in the abdomen, face, and neck. Even if you successfully control steroid-induced weight gain, you’re apt to look heavier while on these drugs because of this fat redistribution.
A variety of variables, including the amount and length of treatment, influence how much and if you may gain weight (which is not guaranteed).
In general, the larger the steroid dosage and the longer you are on it, the greater the likelihood that you will gain weight. In most cases, short courses of a few days to a couple of weeks do not cause significant negative effects.
Subjects who were on higher doses of prednisone for longer periods of time, such as for more than 60 days, were more likely to experience adverse side effects such as weight gain than those who were on lower doses for a shorter period of time, according to one study published in the journal Arthritis Care.
However, after the steroids are discontinued and your body has had time to adapt, the weight will usually start to come off naturally. This generally occurs between 6 months to a year after the initial diagnosis.
Preventing weight gain associated with steroid use
The first step is to consult with your physician. Other pharmaceutical choices may be available to you depending on the medicine you are taking and the problem it is treating.
It is also possible that your doctor may propose a different dose plan or a different kind of steroid. It is possible that they may propose every other-day dosage or, in the case of something like asthma, they will advocate using an inhaled steroid that targets the lungs directly rather than a tablet, which can have side effects throughout the body.
Do not stop taking your medicine (or change the time and method in which you take it) without consulting your doctor. Steroids are very powerful medications that must be weaned down carefully. It is possible to have major health issues if you stop taking them suddenly. These include muscular stiffness, joint pain, and fever, not to mention a resurgence of the illness they were previously managing.
To prevent weight gain, use the same measures that you would do to maintain a healthy weight in general:
Choose meals that are both full and low in calories, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
Eat six little meals a day, rather than three big ones, to help keep hunger at bay.
Instead of refined carbs, go for complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber and take longer to digest (for example, whole-wheat pasta instead of regular pasta, and brown rice instead of white).
Include a source of protein in each of your daily meals (meat, cheese, legumes, etc.). According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, meals that include 25–30 grams of protein are the most efficient for suppressing hunger and regulating weight.
Drink plenty of water. It may also help you lose weight by burning calories in addition to filling you fully. The International Journal of Obesity reported that overweight youngsters who drank merely 10 milliliters per kilogram of body weight of cold water boosted their resting energy expenditure by 25 percent for 40 minutes or more after drinking the cold water.
Continue to be active. When you are not feeling well, it might be difficult to maintain your composure. Having a workout partner might be beneficial, as can participating in an activity that you like.
When it comes to the treatment of some inflammatory conditions, steroids have shown to be highly effective. However, since the drugs are potent, they may produce certain serious and unwanted side effects, such as weight gain, in some patients.
If you are taking steroids and are worried about gaining weight while doing so, speak with your doctor about your concerns. Generally speaking, any weight gained while undergoing treatment will be removed after the medications are stopped, however, this weight loss may take anywhere from months to a year in certain cases. The most effective technique for you to follow is to try to prevent weight gain before it becomes a problem.