Last Modified: March 11, 2012
Prednisone is a corticosteroid, similar to a hormone that is made naturally in your body. Corticosteroids (sometimes abbreviated as "steroids") are used to decrease inflammation, (swelling and/or redness) and thus are involved in the management of a number of diseases, including asthma, autoimmune disorders, reactions to medications, and gastrointestinal disorders (colitis), among others. Prednisone may be given to prevent a reaction to a medication, prevent or decrease nausea or be used in high doses to treat certain cancers.
Prednisone comes as a tablet to take by mouth. Prednisone is best taken with food, as it can irritate your stomach. 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 what the medication is being used for.
There are a number of things you can do to manage the side effects of Prednisone. Talk to your doctor or nurse about these recommendations. They can help you decide what will work best for you. These are some of the most common side effects:
Prednisone can cause people to be more hungry or thirsty than usual. Drink plenty of fluids and try to make your snacks healthy ones, since there may be quite a few of them!
Prednisone can give people an increase in energy. They may also develop insomnia, or difficulty sleeping. Taking the medication in the morning may help to prevent this.
Some patients report feeling irritable or noticing a change in their mood. If this becomes difficult to handle or if the patient expresses a desire to hurt himself, notify a healthcare provider right away.
Patients may notice swelling in their hands and/or feet. Elevating the feet may help to lessen swelling in the feet and ankles. Avoid restrictive or tight clothing that may make it harder for the fluid to drain from the hands, feet, and ankles.
Taking prednisone with food or milk is generally enough to prevent nausea and heartburn. If possible, take the medication when you can be upright (not lying down) for a few hours after the dose. Avoid things that worsen the symptoms, and try antacids (milk of magnesia and calcium tablets, like Tums), saltines, or ginger ale to lessen symptoms.
Prednisone can increase your blood sugar. Diabetics should monitor their blood sugar closely and may require higher doses of insulin while taking prednisone.
Long-term use can lead to early osteoporosis. Your doctor may have you get a bone density scan (dexa scan) to assess your bone health if you are on long- term therapy.
Prednisone can cause delayed wound healing, headaches, muscle weakness, and cataracts (after long-term use).