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What is Prednisone used for?

Friday 26 June 2020
5 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. What is Prednisone?

a. Side Effects of Prednisone

II. Prednisone for Arthritis

a. What is Arthritis?

b. How does Prednisone Treat Arthritis?

III. Prednisone for Asthma and COPD

a. What are Asthma and COPD?

b. How Does Prednisone Treat Asthma and COPD?

IV. Prednisone for Multiple Sclerosis

a. What is Multiple Sclerosis?

b. How Does Prednisone Treat Multiple Sclerosis?

What is Prednisone?

Prednisone is a corticosteroid medication. It is used to treat several different conditions that involve the immune system. This includes arthritis, some skin conditions, multiple sclerosis (MS), allergies, breathing disorders, and other conditions. Corticosteroids are potent anti-inflammatory medications that reduce the activity of the immune system.

Prednisone works in two ways. It can be used as an anti-inflammatory medication or an immunosuppressant drug. The medication works by preventing the release of substances in the body that can cause inflammation and by suppressing the immune system. [1]

In order to treat some conditions, prednisone must be converted into prednisolone. This is done by enzymes in the liver. [2] Keep reading to learn how prednisone treats some common conditions.


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a. Side Effects of Prednisone

Like all medications, prednisone may cause side effects. Common side effects of this medication include nausea, vomiting, sleeping problems, sweating, acne, heartburn or a loss of appetite. You do not need to contact your doctor about these side-effects unless they are severe or persistent. [3]

A woman lying awake during the night

However, prednisone may also cause more serious side effects that do require medical attention. Most prednisone patients do not have serious side effects, but you should seek immediate medical assistance if any of the following occurs:

  • Seizures
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unusual weight gain or swelling in the hands, ankles or feet
  • Vision problems
  • Bloody or tarry stools or coughing up blood
  • High blood pressure
  • Changes to mood or behavior (Depression, extreme happiness)
  • Signs of pancreatitis (nausea, vomiting, fast heart rate or severe stomach pain)
  • Signs of low potassium (increased thirst or urination, uneven heart rate, confusion, leg discomfort or muscle weakness or limpness) [1]

When taking a corticosteroid, your doctor should prescribe you the lowest dose of the medication that still controls your symptoms. This can help reduce the amount of severity of any side effects.

Prednisone for Arthritis

a. What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a range of conditions that involve joint inflammation. There are over 100 different types of arthritis. [4] Arthritis affects over 54 million Americans, which is almost a quarter of all adults. [5] While arthritis is more common in older adults, it can affect people of any age.

Arthritis symptoms include joint swelling, stiffness, pain or aching. [5] Joint swelling can also limit the range of motion in the joint. Often these symptoms are worse in the morning. [4]

In between the joints is a firm tissue known as cartilage. Cartilage protects the joints during movement. Some forms of arthritis are caused by a reduction in this cartilage. This may be a result of injuries, infections or wear and tear. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that is a result of the body’s immune system attacking healthy cells.

b. How does Prednisone Treat Arthritis?

Prednisone is a common treatment for arthritis. It may be used to treat several different types of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and lupus. However, prednisone is not recommended in the treatment of osteoarthritis. [6]

When treating arthritis, prednisone works in two ways. Firstly, the medication stops your body from producing molecules known as cytokines, which reduces stiffness and inflammation. Prednisone also inhibits cyclooxygenase-2, another natural enzyme that can cause inflammation. [7]

Prednisone typically works quickly to treat arthritis and reduces levels of inflammation in one to four days. Some patients may notice the benefits of this medication as soon as hour after taking their prescribed dosage.[6]

Prednisone for Asthma and COPD

a. What are Asthma and COPD?

Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are both chronic breathing problems. They are the two most common chronic respiratory diseases, affecting around 40 million Americans.  [8] [9] Neither of these conditions are curable, but symptoms can be managed by medications. Most asthma patients will not also have COPD, although it is possible to suffer from both, especially later in life.

Common symptoms of both conditions include shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing during exercise. As both conditions have similar symptoms, it may be difficult to distinguish between them without a diagnosis.

A young man coughing into his elbow

b. How Does Prednisone Treat Asthma and COPD?

Asthma and COPD are typically treated using inhaled medications. Inhalers may be long-term inhalers to use each day or quick-relief inhalers to relieve sudden shortness of breath. Common types of inhalers include bronchodilators, corticosteroids, and combination inhalers. However, asthma and COPD may also be treated for a short time with an oral corticosteroid such as prednisone.

Inhaled medications go straight into the lungs, whereas prednisone is taken orally and is absorbed straight into the body. Once absorbed, prednisone works by decreasing swelling and other allergic reactions. [10] Prednisone should be taken alongside other medications to control severe asthma and COPD.

Prednisone for Multiple Sclerosis

a. What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the brain and the spinal cord. MS can cause several different problems, including problems with vision, balance, and movement. Multiple sclerosis is caused by the immune system attacking nerve fibers and disrupting communication between the brain and the body.

This condition varies greatly between patients. Some patients may lose their ability to walk while others may go long periods without showing symptoms. Typically, MS is diagnosed during a person’s 20s or 30s, although it can develop at any age. [11]

b. How Does Prednisone Treat Multiple Sclerosis?

Treatment for multiple sclerosis depends on the severity of the condition, symptoms, and difficulties that each patient has. Medication may be used to treat specific symptoms, relapses, and the frequency of MS attacks.

Corticosteroids such as prednisone are used to reduce inflammation in the nerves. Prednisone works to reduce inflammation in the central nervous system and closes the blood-brain barrier. MS is often treated with high doses of corticosteroids given via an IV drip. Prednisone can be used to replace IV steroids during mild to moderate MS relapses. Prednisone may also be used as a replacement when tapering off from IV steroids. [12]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.