What is anabolic steroid? — Steroid drugs are a class of drugs that can treat a wide range of medical problems. A steroid drug is an artificial hormone whose natural form is produced by the human adrenal gland. This hormone is called “cortisol.”
The medical terms describing steroid drugs are “glucocorticoids” and “corticosteroids”. These drugs are different from the steroids illegally used by some athletes.
What is the role of steroid drugs?
Many different medical problems and some injuries can cause swelling or inflammation. Depending on the affected area, inflammation can cause pain or other symptoms such as joint pain and stiffness or difficulty breathing. Steroid drugs can reduce or prevent these inflammations. Therefore, steroid drugs help treat diseases that cause inflammation, such as eczema, arthritis, allergic reactions, and asthma.
There are many different dosage forms of steroid drugs depending on the application. “Oral” steroids include swallowable tablets, capsules or liquid preparations. If oral steroids are not available, you may need to enter the drug into the body through a thin tube inserted into the vein (ie, intravenously). Other steroid drugs include injections, inhalants, sprays, and creams or ointments for use on the skin.
Oral and intravenous steroids act on the body rather than just a certain area, so they can play other roles. In addition to reducing inflammation, they can also:
● Prevent nausea and vomiting – Steroids can be combined with other drugs to prevent nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.
● Reduce autoimmune response – In some medical problems, the body’s anti-infective system (the “immune system”) attacks healthy tissues and organs, which is called “autoimmune response”. Steroid drugs can help alleviate or prevent this type of attack. Therefore, steroid drugs are useful for the treatment of
autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
● Prevent organ rejection – Steroids can also be combined with other drugs to prevent your immune system from attacking transplanted kidneys or other transplanted organs.
● When your body does not have enough cortisol, you can supplement it with steroids – when the body produces too little cortisol, some medical problems occur. Your body needs cortisol to deal with stress, infection, injury, physical strain, hypoglycemia and other changes. When your body cannot produce enough cortisol by itself, such as when you have Edison’s disease or congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), you need to use a steroid.
Steroid drugs are an important part of the treatment of many medical problems. If you have a serious illness, these drugs can even save your life. Like most drugs, steroids can sometimes cause serious side effects, as summarized below.
What are the different forms of steroid drugs?
— Below is a list of basic information about some different types of steroids and their uses.
Oral steroid drugs – Oral steroids include tablets or liquid preparations for oral administration.
If you use oral steroids, you may sometimes need to take your medication in other ways. E.g:
• If you are hospitalized, you may need to enter the steroid into the body through a thin tube that is inserted into the vein.
If you have Edison’s disease or CAH, your doctor may give you a steroid injection to allow you to self-administer in certain situations. If you have vomiting and are unable to take steroid pills, or if you are severely injured, you may need to inject steroids.
Your doctor may adjust your steroid dose if your condition changes, or if you are sick or require surgery during long-term oral steroids. When you need to stop taking oral steroids, your doctor will tell you how to gradually and slowly reduce the dose. Sudden cessation of oral steroids can cause annoying symptoms. Sudden withdrawal may even be dangerous because your body needs time to adjust, especially if you have been taking steroids for weeks or longer.
● Inhaled steroids – Inhaled steroids are contained in a device called an “inhaler” that helps you inhale drugs. This is a common treatment for asthma and other lung diseases.
Topical steroid drugs – Topical steroids include lotions, ointments, gels and creams for use on the skin. These drugs reduce skin itching and redness. This is a common treatment for eczema or rash.
• Steroid drops or sprays for intraocular, intra-oral or intranasal – these agents reduce itching, congestion, redness or pain in the eyes, ears or nose. Steroid nasal sprays are a common treatment for allergies.
● Steroid injections – steroids can be injected directly into the joints, spine or other parts of the body. This steroid injection is commonly used to treat certain types of pain, such as pain caused by arthritis. This steroid relieves pain and helps restore activity in the injection area.
What side effects can different types of steroids cause? — The side effects depend on the type of steroid you use and how long it has been used:
● Skin creams, ointments, gels and sprays – Steroids for the skin usually do not cause serious side effects. If you use it for a long time or in large doses, side effects can include thinning or redness of the skin at the treatment site.
● Nasal sprays – these drugs usually do not cause serious side effects. Sometimes it may cause dry nose or nosebleeds. To reduce side effects, you can use a moisturizing spray intermittently during the administration to prevent the nose from being too dry.
● Inhaled steroids – Inhaled steroids used to treat lung diseases such as asthma do not have as many side effects as steroid tablets, but some patients who require long-term, high-dose inhalation may have side effects. The more common side effects are thrush (an infection of the mouth and throat) or hoarseness. In rare cases, side effects may occur in other parts of the body. These side effects are similar to those that may occur with oral steroid tablets (see below). Your doctor will adjust your dose and show you how to use the inhaler properly to reduce the likelihood of side effects.
● Oral steroids – If your condition requires long-term or high-dose oral steroids, the most likely side effects occur. These side effects include:
Increased appetite, may also increase weight
- Emotional and thinking changes
- Sleep problem
- Thinning of the skin
- Eye problem
- blood pressure
- Heart problem
- Osteoporosis and other bone problems
- Growth problems of children and adolescents
- High blood sugar
- Increased risk of infection
The doctor will give you the lowest dose and the shortest possible course of treatment. This can reduce the risk of side effects caused by oral steroids or reduce the severity of side effects. If you take steroids for a long time, you will need to undergo regular physical examinations and other tests. The doctor or nurse will assess whether you have side effects and, if so, the appropriate treatment.
What else should I know about steroids? — You should always use steroids in strict accordance with the instructions of your doctor or nurse. This helps the drug work better and helps reduce side effects. For example, if a doctor prescribes a steroid cream, it must be used at the frequency required by the prescription. If you use inhaled steroids, make sure you know how to use the inhaler properly. You should stick to the prescription, even if you don’t feel the medicine is effective. Regardless of the steroid use, you should seek guidance from your doctor and make sure you understand the doctor’s instructions.
If you use oral steroids for more than 3 weeks, your body’s ability to produce cortisol on your own may be reduced. It is important that all health care providers who provide treatment for you know this. You can bring a card with the name and dosage of the steroid you are using, as well as all other medications. Present this card to everyone (doctor, surgeon, dentist or nurse) who provides treatment for you.