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Prednisone – Effect, Application & Risks


Prednisone is a so-called glucocorticoid , a steroid hormone that is produced in the human body itself. It is widely used in medicine as it has anti-inflammatory effects and suppresses immune system responses. It has been known in medical circles since the 1950s.

What is prednisone?

The term prednisone refers to a so-called glucocorticoid. It is a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal cortex. In the liver , the substance can also be converted into prednisolone , which has active metabolic properties.

Since the 1950s, prednisone has been used in medicine for a variety of purposes. Almost any disease involving the immune system can be treated with prednisone.

Long-term and/or highly concentrated intake of the substance leads to a rapid dependence of the body, so that a slow weaning must then take place, which can last for several weeks. Sudden withdrawal can lead to life-threatening conditions.

Pharmacological action

Prednisone can perform different tasks in the body. The adrenal cortex not only produces the steroid hormone itself, but also cortisol , which is required for numerous metabolic processes.

If there is a lack of cortisol in the body or its production is limited, prednisone can replace it. This usually requires additional doses of prednisone-containing medication; however, the substance is usually only used in small doses for these purposes. Higher doses of prednisone act as an anti- inflammatory in the body and can also, with some delay, suppress the immune system.

It protects already damaged tissue from the invading pathogens. At the same time, it prevents the immune cells from releasing substances that lead to the typical immune reactions. Inflammatory reactions can thus be prevented or significantly weakened after they occur.

In the case of a respiratory disease, prednisone suppresses the accumulation of water ( edema ) in the mucous membranes, which leads to a widening of the bronchial inlet and a reduction in mucus production, thus alleviating the symptoms. When an allergy occurs , the usual violent reaction of the body to the allergy trigger is also significantly alleviated by prednisone, so that the symptoms appear much less.

Medical Application & Use

Medically , prednisone is used to treat a wide variety of diseases. In principle, it can be used for all diseases and complaints in which the immune system is involved or in which there are usually inflammatory reactions that are to be prevented.

The use of prednisone makes sense after an organ transplant , for example , as it can prevent the foreign organ from being rejected. Allergies, inflammatory reactions that are not triggered by viruses or bacteria , rheumatic diseases and diseases of the respiratory tract such as chronic bronchitis are usually treated with prednisone.

Serious diseases such as liver and kidney inflammation , multiple sclerosis , pneumonia or leukemia often respond well to therapy with prednisone. This also applies to diseases that affect the muscles or the nervous system, such as fibromyalgia or autoimmune diseases such as myasthenia gravis .

Due to its mode of action on the gastrointestinal tract, the administration of lower doses of prednisone is also advisable in the event of loss of appetite , nausea or the presence of anorexia (especially if these symptoms are due to cancer, for example).

Risks & side effects

Long-term and/or high-dose use of prednisone can have various side effects. The most common include osteoporosis , disorders of sugar metabolism, headaches and an increased risk of infection.

External use of prednisone can cause skin changes, in particular increased sensitivity of the skin and changes in color. Long-term use can lead to a complete functional failure of the adrenal cortex. Due to the seriousness of some possible side effects, prednisone should only be given under observation and only if it is actually necessary.

Therapy with prednisone must always be ended slowly (“creeping”), otherwise the adrenal cortex cannot optimally resume its function. In the worst case, this can lead to a life-threatening condition that must be avoided at all costs.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.