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Prednisone Therapy and Side Effects

What your doctor WON’T tell you about Prednisone…

What your doctor WON’T tell you about Prednisone…

Like all drugs, taking prednisone is a question of balancing the risks and the benefits to make sure it is right for you. Sometimes you don’t know enough about the risks to decide.

Prednisone Benefits

Hopefully your doctor announces his decision to prescribe prednisone something like this:

“Hello, I’m Dr. [SoandSo], your [specialty] doctor. You have a condition called [diagnosis]. There is no cure. It can be fatal if not treated. Luckily there is a drug that can make you feel better. It is called prednisone.”

My doctor said,

“Hello, I’m Dr. Whatshisname, your hematologist. You have a condition called ITP. There is no cure. It can be fatal if not treated. You could bleed to death. Luckily there is a drug that may make your platelets grow back so you won’t bleed. It’s called prednisone.”

Maybe your doctor said,

Hello, I’m Dr. SoandSo, your rheumatologist. You have a condition called rheumatoid arthritis. There is no cure. Your joints will get worse until you can’t move any more. Luckily there is a drug that can slow down the painful process of joint damage. It’s called prednisone.”

Or maybe your doctor said,

“Hello, I’m Dr. SoandSo, your pulmonologist. You have a condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, COPD. There is no cure. It can be fatal because your lungs will stop stretching enough and you will no longer be able to breathe. Luckily there is a drug that can help you breathe. It’s called prednisone.”

Prednisone Risks

If your doctor started out that way, then hopefully he continued by explaining the risks. Maybe he warned you about some of these side effects:

  • peptic ulcer disease
  • risk of infection
  • mood swings
  • appetite increase
  • retain water

What your doctor WON’T tell you about prednisone

But did he mention any of these?

  • Prednisone is the #1 drug cause of osteoporosis.
  • Compared to people who do not take prednisone,
    • You have a 4 times greater risk of developing diabetes.
    • You have a 4 times greater risk of developing high blood pressure.
    • You have a 2.56 times greater risk of heart disease like heart attack and stroke.
  • You cannot stop taking prednisone “cold turkey” or you could die.
  • The #1 tweeted side effect of prednisone is insomnia.
  • The average weight gain while on prednisone is 10% of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 120 pounds when you start prednisone, you will gain 12 pounds.
  • Prednisone wastes away your muscles, leading to muscle pain.
  • Prednisone wastes away your bones, leading to joint pain, osteoporosis, and broken bones.
  • Prednisone moves around your fat, leading to “moon face,” “buffalo hump,” and a belly.
  • Other surprising side effects:
    • Hair loss
    • Memory impairment
    • Hot flashes and red flushing
    • Blurred vision
    • Personality changes

And what about this?

  • Prednisone steals these nutrients from your body:
    • Calcium
    • Vitamin D
    • Chromium
    • Magnesium
    • Zinc
    • Potassium
    • Folic acid
    • Vitamin A
    • Vitamin C
    • Melatonin
  • …which can lead to many consequences.

What can I do about it?

Never stop taking prednisone suddenly–always follow your doctor’s instructions to slowly stop taking it.

Eating a whole food, plant-based diet with enough protein is vital for adequate nutrition while on prednisone.

You can follow the recommendation of the experts: The American College of Rheumatology, the doctors who prescribe prednisone the most, created a guideline for people taking prednisone. They say, “All adults taking prednisone at a dose of greater than or equal to 2.5 mg per day for 3 months or more:

  • Optimize calcium intake (1,000-1,200 mg/day) and
  • Vitamin D intake (600-800 IU/day) and
  • Lifestyle modifications:
    • balanced diet
    • maintaining weight in the recommended range
    • smoking cessation
    • regular weight-bearing or resistance training exercise
    • limiting alcohol intake to 1-2 alcoholic beverages per day”

Source: Clinical Pharmacology, the most complete drug information reference available today.

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