Corticosteroids are very powerful
drugs that reduce inflammation in
various tissues of the body. These
drugs are used to treat many of the
symptoms of lupus that result from
inflammation. You can take them as
pills or by injection. Corticosteroid
creams or ointments are also available
to treat skin rashes caused by lupus.
Most lupus symptoms respond quickly
to corticosteroids. Prednisone is a
corticosteroid that is often used to treat
The decision to begin a corticosteroid
is a big one and depends on your needs.
Some patients may need to take the
drug for a short time only, until disease
symptoms get better or go away. Others
with more serious or life-threatening
problems may require higher doses of
the drug for longer periods of time. In
general, once your lupus symptoms
have responded to treatment, you will
gradually take less and less of the drug
until you can stop completely. If it is
not possible for you to stop the drug
completely, your doctor will give you
the smallest amount possible to keep
symptoms under control.
Doctors are careful about prescribing
corticosteroids because many
complications are associated with taking
them. As a result, it is important to take
the drug exactly as prescribed. People
who have been taking corticosteroids
for a long time may need higher doses
of the drug before, during, or after
a physically stressful event, such as
The brand name of your corticosteroid is
The strength or dose of the corticosteroid ordered for you is ___________.
Take the corticosteroid ________________
time(s) per day.
The best time(s) to take your
Additional instructions: ______________
Possible Side Effects
These include changes in appearance
(such as acne or increased facial
hair); development of a round or
moon-shaped face; thin, fragile skin
that bruises easily; or movement of
body fat to the trunk. You might also
experience mood changes, personality
changes, irritability, agitation, or
Other possible side effects include
increased appetite and weight gain,
poor wound healing, headache,
glaucoma, irregular menstrual periods,
peptic ulcer, muscle weakness,
diabetes, and osteonecrosis (damage
to a joint, usually the hip joint, that
leads to severe arthritis).
Because corticosteroids cross the
placenta, they are used cautiously
during pregnancy. The drugs appear in
breast milk, so if you are taking large
doses, you should not breastfeed.
Avoid exposure to infections. Stay
away from crowds and people
known to have colds, the flu, or other
Schedule regular vision checkups and
report any problems with your vision
to your doctor or nurse.
Talk with a registered dietitian to find
out how to prevent excess weight
gain and minimize certain drug effects
on the body.
Do not take this drug with other
drugs, including over-the-counter
medications, without first checking
with your nurse or doctor. Over-the
counter medications are medications
that you can get without a doctor’s
Tell any nurse, doctor, or dentist who
is taking care of you that you are
taking a corticosteroid for your lupus.
Do not take this drug if you have ever had
an allergic reaction to it.
Carry medical identification and wear
a bracelet to alert medical personnel
that you take a corticosteroid. If you are
planning to have a medical procedure,
let the doctor performing the procedure
know ahead of time that you take a
corticosteroid. Your dose will likely need
to be increased before the procedure.
NEVER MISS A DOSE
Take this drug exactly as ordered. If you
do miss a dose, call your nurse or doctor
immediately to find out when you should
take the missed dose.
NEVER STOP THE MEDICATION
Your adrenal glands, which are located
just above your kidneys, normally
make corticosteroids in small amounts.
These corticosteroids are important for
many body functions. When you take
corticosteroid medication, your body
begins to make much less than usual, or
even stops completely. If you suddenly
stop taking your medication, you may
have a problem because your adrenal
glands won’t have had time to make the
corticosteroids you need. This problem is
called “adrenal insufficiency.”
Signs of adrenal insufficiency include
weakness, fatigue, fever, weight loss,
vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
If you experience any of these problems,
call your nurse or doctor immediately.
Source: National Institutes of Health, U.S.Dept of Health and Human Services