Corticosteroids - Side effects

Corticosteroids are powerful drugs that may cause serious side effects.
Side effects generally are rare when corticosteroids are used for a short time.
The long-term side effects are quite variable and can be severe. Dosage tapering and eventual discontinuation should be considered at some point in patients receiving chronic therapy.

Adverse effects of systemic corticosteroids include:
  • Sodium retention and hypertension
  • Edema
  • Shortness of breath
  • Visual changes
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Osteoporosis
  • Risk of suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Development of cushingoid features
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataract
  • Impairment of growth in children
  • Corticosteroids can lower a person's resistance to infection and can make infections harder to treat
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding and peptic ulcers
  • Sleep disturbances (insomnia)
  • Psychiatric syndromes (mood changes)
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Atrophy (muscle wasting)
  • Potassium loss
  • Fragility of the skin
  • Polyuria (increased need to urinate) and polydipsia (increased thirst)

Adverse effects of topical corticosteroids include:
  • Local tissue atrophy, thinning of the skin, telangiectasia and striae
  • Acneiform eruptions

Adverse effects of inhaled corticosteroids include:
  • Oral candidiasis
  • Hoarse voice
  • Dry irritated throat
  • Cough
  • After long-term inhalation of high doses, osteoporosis, glaucoma and in children growth retardation may occur
  • In children inhaled corticosteroids may also make infections such as chickenpox and measles more serious

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