Overview

Prednisone is available both by generic name and under several brand names.

It is a corticosteroid, or hormone-like medication prescribed for a wide variety of conditions.

Other cortisone-like medicines that are similar to prednisone include prednisolone or Delta-Cortef, cortisone or Cortone, hydrocortisone or Cortef, and triamcinolone, also prescribed as Aristocort or Kenacort.

Much of the information on prednisone is also applicable to these other medications.

It is quite effective in short-term treatment for flare-ups of rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, gout and other rheumatic conditions; for short-term or long-term treatment of conditions like lupus (SLE) or polymyositis; for a number of severe skin problems; to control incapacitating allergic reactions from hay fever and asthma to poison ivy or drug reactions; and for many eye disorders.

It is also indicated in certain cancers, blood diseases, respiratory diseases, multiple sclerosis, a severe kidney problem (nephrotic syndrome), some endocrine disorders and to tide a patient over a critical episode of ulcerative colitis or regional enteritis.

Side Effects and Interactions

At high doses, prednisone can lead to salt and water retention which may raise blood pressure.

Blood pressure should be monitored. Susceptible people may experience low potassium or congestive heart failure.

Prednisone may also cause muscle weakness, weakened bones, peptic ulcer, inflamed pancreas or esophagus, menstrual irregularities and hormonal imbalances, including reduced ability to handle carbohydrates (insulin problems).

Rash and itching may be a sign of allergy to prednisone.

The skin may also become thin and fragile, with slower wound healing, redness and increased sweating.

Side effects involving the nervous system may include mood swings, personality changes, insomnia, euphoria and depression.

Headache, dizziness and convulsions have also been reported.

Children who must take prednisone should be measured on a regular basis to make sure their growth is not affected.

Report any symptoms to your physician promptly.

If you are taking any other medicines, check with a physician or pharmacist.

Barbiturates, birth control pills, blood thinners like Coumadin, estrogen replacement therapy like Premarin, seizure medicine such as Dilantin or Peganone and the tuberculosis treatment rifampin can all interact seriously with prednisone.

Even over-the-counter drugs like aspirin or Pepto-Bismol may be affected.

Special Precautions

Prednisone should not be taken when there is a systemic fungal infection.

Prednisone may reduce the body's resistance to infection and mask the signs of a new infection, including certain laboratory tests for infection.

Long-term use of prednisone may increase the risk of developing cataracts or glaucoma. Regular eye check-ups are advisable.

In addition, prednisone, like other corticosteroids, increases calcium loss and long-term use may result in weakened bones.

Taking the Medicine

The lowest effective dose should be used.

Because dosage regimens vary depending on what condition is being treated, be sure you understand exactly how many pills you should take and when you should take them.

For some conditions, early morning (before 8 a.m.) is preferable.

The doctor may prescribe prednisone to be taken every other day rather than every day.

Stopping prednisone abruptly may result in symptoms of inadequate adrenal gland function. To avoid this, you may be instructed to taper off prednisone gradually.

This is important, as it may take months for the adrenal gland to return to normal if it is suppressed.

Join Over 52,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

  1. S T
    Reply

    I started taking prednisone back in April. 20 mg for I.tT.P tapered down to 5mg by middle of July then told to taper to 5mg every second day till August now on 5mg on two days a week since getting down to low dose I July I am having. Extreme hair loss and itching all over. Is this due to tapering of this drug ?

  2. Carol S
    Reply

    I was put on a gradually lowering course of prednisone for 8 days. Following it, I got more frequent optical migraines and developed a low level of psoriasis and itching. I was given it for bronchitis and it did help with that. I am wondering when the psoriasis and itching will go away. Also during the course of it my blood sugars were super high. I am borderline type 2 diabetic. No carbs is a good idea while you are on it.

  3. mt
    Reply

    I am taking prednisone for 8 days and I also take multivitamins and (alendronate sodium)once per week. is that okay?

  4. gel
    Reply

    I was diagnosed last April 2012 with henoch scholein purpura the doctor prescribed prednisone starting to a lower dose which is 10mg 2x a day but it doesn’t work so he increase it to 20 mg per 2x a day for 1 month now and I notice that my face puff, wt gain, craving for food, I wanted to taper my dose. how to taper my dose? how many weeks interval?

  5. BABS
    Reply

    I have Pneumonia and was given a steroid shot yesterday and started Prednisone 10mg today, starting with 6 pills on day 1, and decrease 1 pill each day for 6 days. The last time I was on this medication I ended up in ICU 3 days with angina, high blood pressure, high glucose and low potassium so I’m worried about this happening again and my Dr knows this but put me on it anyway and told me to regularly check my BP/Glucose.. My BP this morning was low 111/70 but my Sugar was 196 and I have a headache.. The Dr also prescribed Levofloxacin & Tussin w/codeine. On a regular basis I take Nexium, Metoprol Levothyroxin Wellbutrin, Lexapro, Singular abd Fluticasone nasal spray, Ibuprofen, Flexril, Tarzodone and Ambien, The Dr didn’t mention and I forgot to ask if I should continue taking all my regular meds while on the Prednisone.
    People’s Pharmacy response: You should ask the doctor, but normally you would continue your regular medications while on prednisone. You might not need the ibuprofen; prednisone is likely to drown out any pain relieving effect you usually get from it.

  6. rg
    Reply

    What’s the latest on your gout and prednisone. I recently started treatment for the same having gout in left foot. I am on day three of a 10 day taper and been reading alot of horror stories when course ends

  7. Beth
    Reply

    It seems strange to me how many people are diagnosed with PMR. It almost seems to be a catchall when there are aches and pains in muscles. The treatment is always prednisone which seems to leave the person with more side effects than the original complaint.
    I for one was on it for nine months. I started losing my hair and I started itching not only in my head, but also my body. I have been off prednisone for several months, but I am left with this itching. The prednisone must damage some area of physiology. If one person has complaints, it could be unique to that person, but when so many people have the same complaint why aren’t drug researchers finding something. I am losing all faith in drugs and people who keep making them. What would prednisone do to make you itch. Why do people itch?

  8. marjiscott
    Reply

    I have been on Predisone for the last 2 years for FSGS. Focular Segmental Glomeral Sclerosis. Causes Kidney Failure. I was started at 60 Mgs two years ago, put on Dialysis 3x a week. Now off Dialysis for over a year now. Down to 5 mg every other day with no side effects. Kidney function back up to 80%, Creatinine now down to 1. Can I go off it now?

  9. llk
    Reply

    My son was treated for UC and diarrhea with cortisone but he actually had Chrons disease. A very expensive blood test showed the Chrons. He has been on Humira for months now and is in complete remission. He had to reduce his dosage but very few problems since he has gone to new Dr. in
    Birminham, Al

  10. Bly
    Reply

    Prednisone is one of the drugs I am getting for Lymphoma. 100 mg for 5 days every 3 wks.
    I get very angry and am short-fused. I have weird hives. I am FAT.
    The stupid doctors just say “its normal”.
    I don’t think its normal to be this angry. I have yelled at my caretakers… can’t go to work because I blow up at people.
    The doctors should warm patients that this can happen. It is very upsetting.
    Can’t wait until the Chemo is OVER. I hope it works.

  11. Graeme W
    Reply

    Andee,
    I have had the same experience as you, could not smell, went on a two week course of Prednisone and found the result fantastic. I could smell everything, good and bad, it was great! After finishing the Prednisone course, smell lasted for two or three weeks and I gradually lost it again. I have had three operations (over the past 20 yrs) to remove nasal polyps but this never had a lasting benefit. I understand there are all kinds of side effects taking Prednisone so am looking for an alternative without the side effects. Have you had any luck?

  12. HARRY R.
    Reply

    I have gluten sensitivity–the only problem for me is dh (duhrings disease), no digestive problems—–dapsone doesn’t seem to help—the only relief that I get is from prednisone 20 mg every other day. I’m an active male 82 yr’s old and have no other serious health issues. I am allergic to sulfa based drugs —hoping hear from you—-have had this condition 3 to 4 yr.s—–I’ll look forward to your reply—thanks in advance.

  13. Doris D.
    Reply

    I take a low dose of predisone for my gout. I only take it for five days but it gives me headaches an runs my b/p up. I have chronic hypertension but I can say it does help the flare up. This was my first in my hands which is very painful an swollen.

  14. gd
    Reply

    I too have been diagnosed with PMR. I am now down to 10 mg prednisone daily after being on it for 8 months. The PMR has subsided but my muscles have deteriorated. My arms and legs look like skeletons. I am working out with resistance training at Curves, and walking daily, hoping my muscles will return. I wonder if anyone else has had this problem

  15. Alexia
    Reply

    Please let me know what they answered you

  16. RWS
    Reply

    Used prednisolone for four days to relieve lung congestion (8 tabs 5mg / day) but broke out in a rash after three days which quickly got worse, my hands and face also became very red and my blood pressure increased dramatically. It was so bad I went to the doctor. It may have been an allergic reaction as described on this page as a counter-indication of prednisolone, and as a result, I did not finish the full course (five days). I am also taking allopurinol, and was prescribed amoxillin at the same time as the prednisolone, and the first thought was that the allergic reaction might have been (unusually for me) in response to the antibiotic – which I have now stopped as well, three days short of the course.

  17. AndeeJC
    Reply

    Hi Deb, what did you end up doing? Did u have side effects of going on / off predisone? I just started on it first time two weeks ago, I’ve never felt better, I didn’t know apples smell good !! Yesterday was my last day (I was asked to take for 14 days only). I have polyps since 5 yrs (5 yrs – no sense of smell). But past two weeks, smell, taste, appetite everything returned.. feels new & great. No negative side effects yet! And I have to much energy (started loads of new projects lol). How long will this last Now that I’ve stopped the meds? When will the this “High” end? :) also- How long before ur polyps grew back after the surgery? I’ve never done surgery (although have been asked to by multiple doctors). I know this post is two years late..but I’m hoping your still out there..:)

  18. Julianna L.
    Reply

    At some point, will you go into more detail about the adrenal gland and how much damage occurs with use of Prednisone (corticosteroids), etc. It seems doctors themselves don’t have a clue, nor are they interested in this aspect of steroidal use in their patients. I think it’s reached a dangerous situation for many people and this is not being discussed or addressed by their doctors. It’s like they completely ignore the symptoms and choose to blame the illness for which it was prescribed.
    Also, the heart is a muscle and it too falls into the category of side effects involving muscles, which is another factor most doctors ignore, and only if the BP elevates do they think of the heart, choosing to prescribe the newer, more dangerous BP meds instead of the older safer meds, without addressing the Prednisone issue.
    I’m very concerned about the Na (sodium) imbalance my mother is experiencing, along with all other side effects of Prednisone for Lupus, and, the “adrenal exhaustion” she is obviously dealing with. Not one of her doctors wants to address any of this and are insisting on statin drugs for only 3 slightly elevated BP readings. Can you believe this?! One doctor became sarcastic and asked why she kept a BP log at home and refused to look at it.
    Having worked in healthcare 26 years, I’m still in shock at the bad behavior of doctors and the great lack of knowledge/education. Remember, they are NOT pharmacists. I think this whole issue of ignoring the side effects has turned into an epidemic of great proportions.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: We will write about the adrenal gland sometime soon. Many people are interested in the causes and consequences of adrenal exhaustion.
    We are surprised, however, that your mother’s doctors want to prescribe a statin for blood pressure. Statins are cholesterol-lowering drugs that don’t have an impact on blood pressure.

  19. S. Evans
    Reply

    My husband was put on prednisone for pneumonia and now has fluid on his stomach and a spot that showed up on his liver, could this be a side effect of the medication and can he take milk thistle for his liver?

  20. Kathy W
    Reply

    Hello. I had a cortisone shot in my knee about two weeks ago for bursitis. After a few days, the pain went away. About a week ago I developed a rash all over my body that looked like hives and itched like crazy. I tried rubbing Calamine Lotion all over and took Benedryl to help. The itching didn’t stop and I went to my internal medicine doctor and she put me on prednisone 20mg to reduce inflammation and stop itching. It worked for about one day, then the rash and itching started all over again. The only way I get get any relief is to keep taking the Benedryl, but then I’m knocked out for the whole day. Should I just stop taking the Prednisone? I’m about half way through the dose. I’m going crazy itching myself raw. Please advise. Kathy

  21. Sally
    Reply

    I have been on prednisone for about 8 months. I take it for a condition called polymyositis. I hate that I have to take it but if I try to skip a day i can barely walk or use my arms. It causes mood swings, weight gain, hair loss, depression. I do want to share one thing though. My hair was falling out at an alarming rate. I started taking EPA-DHA 720 omega-3s fish oil. The results were amazing. Within 2 weeks my hair stopped falling out. I also take calcium with vitamin D.
    The dr says I will always have to take prednisone because there is no cure for polymyositis and it is an autoimmune disease. I’m gained between 15-20 pounds which is depressing. Has anyone tried an over the counter diuretic to lose the water weight? It seems like there should be something else to take instead of prednisone. I try to stay positive but it’s hard sometimes. I’ll keep hoping for a miracle :)

  22. melanie
    Reply

    In short temporary spurts it has been of great benefit to me. 20mg tablet once a day for a week, then 10mg for 14 days. helping me to lose weight due to being active where I could barely walk before, without the med and resorted to walker and crutches at times, as well as a cane often.
    I can actually exercise, my mind clearer and I feel very alert/sharp, I have energy and I feel happy when on this little dose of 20mg. Oh, and I don’t hurt, no pain that exhausts me or very little. 10mg and I begin feeling my ra again but something is better than nothing and I can still exercise which helps me in the long run. Food tastes better too and I have been making better food choices because I am not fatigued so I don’t eat to get energy but to enjoy it slowly. We are talking a 19lbs weight loss so far. I want to be able to not use it at all but for now, I am ecstatic at what it has done for me. A real miracle improving my quality of life a good 85%.

  23. Nancy W.
    Reply

    Interesting, my son 51 yrs and brother 62 yrs, have Psoriasis. My son for 20 years and my br. for 6 or so…. My son has tried light booth, which works, and many home remedies with some success. He was on Emberyl for a while but gained weight and went off of it. My brother has been on Emberyl for sometime now and also has gained much weight. Could this stuff have prednisone in it, as I see some of the comments mention heart problems, which he just experienced….Hope to hear from some of you. Thanks

  24. Joanie
    Reply

    Hi my name is Joanie, I have a autoimmune disease called Mysthenia Gravis. It is very rare and I’ve been taking prednisone for 7 years. I just want to ask you if your speech is impaired and you have a hard time swallowing at times? Have you seen a neurologist?
    Joanie from Buffalo

  25. bv
    Reply

    On the article above it says not to take with Coumadin.

  26. KGreen
    Reply

    I’m having the same problem. I have chronic hives and have been on pred for months and no one can seem to help me. I went to a dermatologist but will now make an appointment to see an allergist.

  27. Dege
    Reply

    M. Flores
    Thank you so much for your story and advice. My 15 year old son was recently diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and he has been in and out of the hospital 3 times since the summer. I see the effects of the Prednisone and I am so tired of him feeling like crap every time I am starting to wean him off of it. I took down some of the info you mentioned about the natural remedies and I just got a package from my brother from I-Herb and I am staring down at this B-Complex bottle of vitamins as well as Raw vitamin E, B-12 and green blends to detoxify the body. The only issue that I have is that Im afraid that these remedies may interfere with all of the meds that he is currently on(6-MP, Omprazole and the Prednisone)
    Thank you again for the advice. Your story has been a blessing to me tonight and I know there is HOPE for my son!!!

  28. CK
    Reply

    My daughter was diagnosed with vasculitis as the condition, but was never told Why she has it. The doctor said to put her on Prednisone. 60mg a day For 6 months, then taper to 30 a day after that..
    Results: my daughter gained 45 lbs of water weight, she looked like a fat Chinese baby. the hump on her back was so big, that she couldn’t raise her arms. She gained man hair grossly all over her body, especially her face.
    emotionally her mood swings were so severe, in the end the doctor said she now needed anxiety and depression meds.. but to continue the Prednisone… FOREVER..
    her blood pressure was normal before this, and now was 154/112, and her chest pounded painfully if she even walked down stairs..
    RESULTS: congestive heart failure/ right heart failure High blood pressure, caused back flow edema especially in the upper body.
    What we did about it as parents… Stopped this insanity of a devil drug
    we researched the web, as the doctor would NOT taper her off this drug. And did this our selves.. slowly over 5 months my daughter got off this..
    She lost all the 45lbs of water weight.. oh yea, during the Prednisone treatment, the doctor would NOT give her water pills, so she would not gain so much.. told her she didn’t need it.. and the side effects were worth the control of vasculitis, that she never told why she had it in the first place.
    The spots on her body pechia, were gone in 3 weeks after taking Prednisone.
    RESULTS: Her own adrenal cortisol level at time of blood test is normal, but with surges of epinephrine, which make her blood pressure sky-high..
    She lost all her man-hair..
    But now is so nausea’s from the heart damage, that she gets sick, and the lack of protein being absorbed has dwindled.. She now has lost most of her hair on her head.. The new doctor calls it alopecia. This has caused severe self image problems..
    Now the new doctor wants to give her anxiety depression pills… Even though we went there, because her chest is hurting her so bad, when she walks…
    If you get anything out of this…. If a doctor will not tell you WHY you have something, and only wants to treat the symptoms but not the underlying cause.. THEN FOR THE LOVE OF PETE.. DO NOT TAKE Prednisone!

What Do You Think?

Share your thoughts with others, but be mindful of protecting your own and others' privacy. Not all comments will be posted. Advice from web visitors is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. In posting a comment, you agree to our commenting policy and website terms and conditions.