Prednisone (and similar corticosteroids) can be a life saving drug. It saved my sanity when I developed sudden hearing loss in one ear. That was a really scary experience for someone who depends on hearing to be able to do live radio.

The ear, nose and throat specialist diagnosed my deafness as “idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss.” In other words, he didn’t have a clue what caused it. He did prescribe high doses of prednisone and within a few days my hearing returned.

Similar corticosteroids like Prednisone include

  • Cortisone
  • Dexamethasone
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Methylprednisolone
  • Prednisolone

There are many conditions for which such drugs can be extremely valuable, even life saving. Here are just a few:

When Prednisone is Helpful

  • Very serious allergic reactions (bad poison ivy for example)
  • Anaphylactic shock (life-threatening allergic reaction)
  • Brain tumors
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease)
  • Severe asthma (usually to help control acute flare-ups)
  • Severe nausea of chemotherapy
  • High altitude sickness (when there is brain swelling)
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Addison’s disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Giant cell arteritis

As useful as corticosteroids can be for a wide range of conditions, the drugs can also cause an extraordinary number of serious side effects. Some people have likened this to a deal with the devil. Even short-term use can cause problems.

My personal experience with Prednisone

The week or two that I took prednisone for my hearing loss I couldn’t sleep, became incredibly irritable and hard to live with, and felt as if I had turned into someone I didn’t know or like. A study in the American Journal of Psychiatry analyzed data from hundreds of thousands of European patients over an 18 year period.

They discovered that people taking corticosteroids were more likely to experience neuropsychiatric symptoms including depression, suicidal thoughts (and actions), delirium, disorientation, confusion, panic and manic episodes.

The authors conclude that: “Glucocorticoids [another term for corticosteroids] increase the risk of suicidal behavior and neuropsychiatric disorders. Educating patients and their families about these adverse events and increasing primary care physicians’ awareness about their occurrence should facilitate early monitoring.”

I can relate. I certainly felt disoriented and out of control on the relatively high dose I was taking. The trouble is that patients and their families are not always warned about such side effects.

Scary Prednisone side effects that have been reported to us

“Years ago I was given prednisone in the emergency room for a severe anaphylactic reaction that affected my ability to breathe and caused massive hives. Although the treatment may have been necessary, I too had a severe psychotic reaction and when I finally went to my own doctor and had blood tests, my blood chemistry was all over the map. I had to continue the tapered dose till I was done but I wish someone had warned me of possible side effects so at least I wouldn’t think I was totally crazy.

“I questioned my ability to drive, slept constantly, and was quite volatile. I had to take a day off from work. Knowledge is power! People should be warned about possible side effects so they have the information should side effects occur.”


“I was on 20mg twice a day of prednisone for a sinus infection. Had I known anything about this horrible drug I would have never taken the meds and let my sinus infection clear up on its own. That would have been better than these side effects.
“I was not told to taper the dose, so I took as prescribed 20mg twice daily for 7 days. The day after stopping my whole body hurt to the touch, as if I was black and blue all over. I was swollen, red and had a lump on my neck, not to mention being very disoriented. I went back to the doctor and he insisted this had nothing to do with the drug.
“I checked myself into the ER where they put an IV drip with benadryl and the like. I was discharged that day. No change. Next day, didn’t hurt to the touch anymore. New side effect – rash from head to toe and severe indigestion. Following day, rash subsiding, indigestion getting better. Still feeling a bit loopy, but I am told by next week I should be back to myself again.
“I am warning everyone i know not to ever take a steroid unless your life is in danger. It is a very scary feeling – all for a sinus infection.”

“I’m having Prednisone side effects. My doctor prescribed this drug last Thursday. She prescribed 20mg twice daily for five days. I was sleepless for three days in row. On day 4 after a short nap I awake feeling so nervous. I am crying, my hands are shaking, and my heart is beating so hard. These are awful feelings.
“My doctor told me I will feel that way for about nine days. She didn’t show any care about me. She also said I can go back to work (and drive a long way) the next day. But the way I was and am feeling I’m not daring to drive even one block.
“I do not understand why she prescribed that medicine, without any warning, for a small allergy I had. I mean the medicine was worse than my illness.”

“My wife had sleepless nights when on prednisone and the doctor said that she might do some odd things that she normally wouldn’t do. He was right. One night she got up and tore down the wall paper in our bathroom :-) We still get a laugh over this one.”
-Bob K.

“I am experiencing high blood pressure, agoraphobia, panic attacks, light headedness, confusion, weakness, intolerance to heat, IBS, shaking, etc. These side effects all started the day I stopped the drug. It has been 7 days with not much improvement. I was hospitalized for 3 days. I pray I do not EVER have to take prednisone again… EVER.
“I am hoping I get past this. My quality of life stinks. I took 30mg 1 day 20mg 2 days and 1 mg 2 days. Absolutely HATE this.”

These are just some of the messages that have been posted to our website. Feel free to add your story or comment below. We find it astonishing that some prescribers do not warn patients about the possibility of psychological side effects brought on by prednisone and friends. Even a short-course of high-dose steroid can precipitate symptoms. And not warning about gradual tapering borders on bad medicine. To protect yourself and your loved ones from such medical mistakes we suggest our latest book, Top Screw-ups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.

We want to emphasize that corticosteroids can be very valuable. Some people must take them for the rest of their lives because of a very serious or life-threatening condition. And NO ONE should ever stop taking a drug like prednisone suddenly. It must be phased off gradually under medical supervision.

Other side effects associated with corticosteroids like Prednisone

  • Fluid retention, edema
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability, nervousness, mood swings, mania, depression, psychosis
  • Disorientation, confusion
  • Hypertension
  • Loss of potassium
  • Headache
  • Dizziness, vertigo
  • Muscle weakness
  • Blood sugar elevation (diabetes)
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Swollen face
  • Hair growth (including on the face)
  • Itching, rash, hives
  • Increased susceptibility to infection
  • Weakened bones (osteopenia, osteoporosis)
  • Tendon rupture
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts
  • Ulcers

The higher the dose and the longer someone takes a drug like prednisone the more likely there will be side effects. Make sure your physician is monitoring things like potassium, blood sugar, bone density and psychological well being. And never stop a corticosteroid suddenly!

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  1. Dan

    I was prescribed 20mg Prednisilone for 10 days by ENT for bad Tinnitus. After 2 days I started experiencing anxiety and felt quite low (note: I’ve never had problems with anxiety or depression before). I explained this to my ENT and he said I could stop but then we won’t know if the drug worked. I decided to persevere for another 5 days. BIG mistake. The anxiety was pulsing through my body non-stop and I was feeling really depressed. I think I slept for about 1-2 hours per night and even then it wasn’t really sleeping. The anxiety exacerbated the Tinnitus and I felt like my world was caving in. The anxiety and depression persisted for another 5-6 weeks after I stopped. I am now in week 7 and feel like I am starting to stabilise although I still have bouts of anxiety that seem more ‘physical’ than ‘mental’. I pray I never need to use this drug again. Oh, and it did absolutely nothing for my tinnitus.

  2. marie

    I have had Crohn’s disease since my teens, I’m now 64. Had 2 serious flareups that latest years and prednisone was part of the medical treatment to no avail for before I finally had surgery. By then I was a wreck, high fever, severe weight loss and anemia, skin problems, eye problems, arthritis, severe pain, etc.
    Then due to prednisone affecting the healing process, the bowel surgery was a disaster with internal hemmorage after 2 days, and another 2 months spent in the hospital while wound was left open to heal, fighting infection and going through prednisone withdrawal.
    Next flareup same scenario, prednisone for a year and a half, poor healing, and severe withdrawal symptoms for 6 months in spite of slow tapering of this terrible drug.
    Now, have another flareup with eyes, arthritis and skin inflammation for last 2 years. Swore I would not take prednisone ever again, eye doctor promised the .1% prednisone drops would not bother me.
    After 3 days, feeling awful with nausea, headaques, dizziness, heart palpitations, poor sleep etc.. Discontinued the drops. Now waiting for the withdrawal of this miniscule dose of .1% drops of prednisone four times a day to happen.
    I agree with everybody, unless you are going to die otherwise, stay away from this drug, it’s not worth it. I’m sure I suffer from long term effects of having taken this drug for very long periods of time, this can never be reversed. So much for the golden years…

  3. Lisa

    I’ve been on and off prednisone for over a year now for asthma and bronchitis. The dose the doctor starts me on is a at 80 mg for 3 days and it’s a taper every 3 days as follows 80 mg, 60mg, 40mg, 20mg. The side effects are really rough especially when I come off I have extreme pain, swelling and fatigue. I’ve gained over 50 pounds as well.

    My biggest problem is once I come off the broncitus and asthma attacks return so the doctor has to restart me on 60mg or 80mg. Back in May I ended up hospitalized for the breathing issues and was on an IV dose of 120mg and was released on pill form of 60mg. The doctor actually had me taper down from 60, 40, 20 (each for 3 days) to 10 for a few weeks then down to 5 for a few weeks. After being off prednisone for a week the breathing issues returned. I feel as if my adrenal gland isn’t working. Does anyone have any suggestions to help my body working normal again.

  4. Ginger

    I’m going to add this from a medical/scientific perspective coupled with that of a patient. Taking prednisone is in essence messing with your endocrine system by pumping yourself with a very unnatural hormone surge. There is literally no way that this will not have negative side effects both in the short term and even in the long term.

    People can develop the life threatening disease Addison’s (cortisol insufficiency) off taking prednisone for extended periods of time, though more commonly they unknowingly get sucked into adrenal fatigue (which is sadly mostly unrecognized by the medical community currently) which can take month or YEARS to heal. We can rock the boat of the endocrine system very quickly thanks to pharmaceuticals, but it can take a very long time for our bodies to recover because our “boats” were not designed to be rocked that violently so quickly.

    I agree that this is a medicine that should be reserved ONLY for special, life-saving measures and even then be only very carefully considered, OR when there are very particular extenuating circumstances such as with chronic illness where prednisone really is the only thing that seems to give a patient a good recovery of both quantity and quality of life.

    Sometimes taking a medicine vs not taking it is about choosing the lesser of two evils, rather than taking a medicine as a glowing, haloed salvation for our medical need. Unfortunately we aren’t always properly informed in advance that our bottled salvation comes with horns and a pitchfork.

  5. Rosalie
    Aloha, OR

    I have been on prednisone since the middle of May, for Giant Cel Arteritis. Started with 60mg, was tapering down. Then because of question about my eyes, had to go back to 60mg. Am now down to 40mg and get to go to 30mg tomorrow for 7 days.

    Even with tapering, I am not noticing any change in the weakness. My upper body remains strong, but lower body very weak. Have no pain, except some in lower back. They tell me that it’s from spinal stenosis (dont know if that just comes along with Giant Cel, or what, but it’s the only pain I have.) Am in high hopes that the lower dosage, beginning tomorrow, will make a positive change in my strength!

  6. tom
    los angeles

    8 years ago I had a liver transplant and was prescribed a lot of prednisone for the first few weeks after I left the hospital. A week after I got home I tried to start a fight – like punches etc – with my 25 year old son. It was so stupid we both started laughing. But that was me and prednisone all the way. It gave me a short fuse and stupid judgment. I was glad when I didn’t have to take it again.

  7. Don

    If you would bother to read the pharmacology information included when you get these prescriptions filled you will find lots of warnings about the side effects and withdrawal. The trouble is people do not make an attempt to educate themselves or even bother asking the doctor about it. Take responsibility for your healthcare and stop blaming the doctor. Any medication and that includes OTC drugs like Tylenol and Benadryl have side effects and adverse reactions. Would you prefer to go back in time when there were no medicines when you got sick? One last thing then I’ll get off my soap box. When you’re sick don’t expect a “magic pill” that is going to make you all better. There is no such thing! Prednisone has its purposes and can save your life but take it responsibly. Before you swallow any medication even OTC ones be proactive and educate yourself about them. Make sure you know what you’re putting in your body Or your child’s body!

  8. Eric
    Wilmington, NC.

    Took Prednisone for only a few days. Now sitting here anxious, shaky, unable to sleep wishing I never took those wretched pills! Nothing was explained about side effects, especially withdrawals and I only took them once a day for only three days! Doctors need to better educate their patients on this mess!

  9. mark
    perth australia

    Reading all the bad reviews on here I thought my experience might help some. I was prescribed 25mg once daily for 10 days for chronic and so far undiagnosed knee pain and inflammation following a knee reconstruction and subsequent failed revision. My experience – only day 7 but all good so far. No side effects but knee is significantly less painful and swollen. I only wish I could keep taking it but obvioiusly this is not a long term option.

  10. Joan
    Hamilton, NJ

    5 weeks today prednisone free…..when will I feel normal again?? Aches, pains, anxiety and some depression. Please, any answers? Thank you!

    • Johnny

      Prednisone is the devils drug, sure “he” offers you relief or a cure, but “he” fails to tell you that you’ll pay a lot trying to get your body functioning normal again.

      I was prescribed three cycles back to back, each two weeks long. They started at 40 mg a day and gradually decreased the dose every few days over the 14 days .

      I’m on day eight after my last dose. It’s been awful. The first 3-4 days were hell. Vomiting, extreme headaches, unbelievable fatigue, chills, and debilitating joint and muscle pain. Today is better, but still having all over body pain and headaches.

      There is nothing I can think of, other than the prevention of death, that will make me consider taking this devil drug again! Curse the doctors who put me on it for back pain!

  11. Steve
    Ottawa, Canada

    Was prescribed 50mg once a day for 5 days and it has almost cured a very bad case of poison ivy. I am on day 3 and am experiencing sore neck and feels like I was punched in the nose, I have also had intermittent shakes, heart palpitation and insomnia… also feel dazed and like my face is swollen but it is not.

    The poison ivy was so bad I am reluctant to stop so will try to continue to Day 5.

  12. Diane C.
    United States

    I also was never told about the horrible side effects of prednisone so at this point in time my sugar and BP is high, I have unbearable reflux, gained forty pounds in one month and that’s only part of my nightmare. Ask if there’s an alternative besides steroids and if not, read up on it, and talk to your doctor before you take it.

  13. Jeb

    After doing some damage to my shoulder, I was today prescribed this drug for the inflammation. Not knowing any better, and trusting doctors, I took the two 20mg tablets. What a mistake.

    I have been suffering for the last 8 hours, can’t stand any light and sound, throbbing head ache, deep pain in the thighs, racing heart, dizziness, sweating, sore eyes, forgetfulness, huge joint pain.

    I’ve now been in stage 2 hypertension for the last 3 hours, somewhat close to stage 3. I was probably at stage 3 earlier today given how much worse I felt then compared to now.

    I have flushed the rest of the pills and will never touch these things again. I cannot wait until this stuff is out of my system. I’d rather have just put up with a sore shoulder.

  14. maria

    I did not realize how bad this med is! I was prescribed 10mg for 7 days for bad allergies. Was not warned about all the bad side effects and was not told about being weaning off! I will definitely complain to my regular doctor since another doctor prescribed it to me.

  15. Christine

    I’ve been taking Prednisone 50mg day for the last 10 days for liver failure after antibiotics for an infection. Prescribed by a specialist doctor who did not tell me the full story about this medication. I already knew it was a medicine that I didn’t want to be on. Jitters, anxiety, anger bursts, insomnia, frequent urination, raised blood sugar, insatiable appetite, severe reflux. Each day is bringing something new. I have just started weaning from this horrid drug which depending on blood work will conclude in a month. This all confirms my lack of faith in modern medicine and I’m ready to jump off this train wreck and explore a natural, holistic approach.

    • Suzanne

      Christine did they give you somac for the reflux…it protects the upper gi tract when taking prednisolone. I also take ranitidine in the late afternoon. Have just finished 2 months on prednisolone for proteinuria…50 mgs a day … Just started 40 mgs for 1 minth then will taper down again. Main complaint has been fluid retention and not being able to fit into my good boots. And a bit of a moon face. Got fitted for thigh high compression stockings and notice if i dont eat salty junk eg chips fluid retention is less. I also walk and exercise regularly.

  16. Rhonda
    Ft Knox, Ky

    I had a severe allergic reaction week ago and ended up in the ER. After an IV of Benadryl, Atarax & Zantac I was sent home with Prednisone 60 mg per day X’s 5 days. On the third day I experienced sudden onset of SEVERE joint pain to my left ankle and left shoulder. I was unable to walk or lay down thus getting very little sleep sitting up in a chair. This lasted 2 days and I thought I was home free… although the pain stopped as abruptly as it began on the left side… It began on my right side! Then both of my wrists! Today is day 7 and I am still experiencing pain in both shoulders. I will NEVER take a steroid again! Along with all the pain, I am tired, have lack of appetite and feel very weak.

  17. Mike

    I had to take it for 7 days to get rid of a sinus infection with intense blockage and pressure. It worked wonders and now I can sleep.

  18. Jennifer

    I had a very bad chest infection after a flu virus. My ventolin and seritide weren’t working. I went to an after hours dr. Two weeks ago and he put me on 50mg prednisone and amoxicillin. I stopped the prednisone after two weeks. Was not told to taper it off slowly. Two days after stopping it my left leg was so painful and I found it hard to walk. The third day, my right leg also was painful and I could only walk slowly with my legs feeling they were going to crumble under me.

    I went to emergency and had too be wheeled in. By that time my left arm was beginning to pain. They did blood tests, X-rays, nose swab etc. I was in hospital for a day and they realised the prednisone that I stopped abruptly was the reason. They put me back on it at 25mg for three days and then 10mgs for another three days. Paradox helps the pain and I am walking fine again. I will never take this drug again and I will advise the dr that prescribed needs to talk about the process of going off it slowly. I am a very fit woman but was so scared when my legs just wouldn’t work.

  19. Joanna

    6-29-2015 After starting Prednisone withing the first 24 hours it was doing wonders for my shoulder pain in conjunction with percocet, however the lower back and leg pain that began is unbearable. I can’t sit or sleep. I work at a desk all day and I’m finding myself rocking back and forth just to deal with the pain. I do get up and walk and find minor relief but not enough. I know I can’t just abruptly stop, but good grief I’d rather never have started it. Thank goodness its only a weeks worth then the weening begins. I really wish I would have asked more questions before beginning the prescription. ask ask ask questions.

  20. Kathy
    Lasvegas nevada

    I took a 6 day Pak 4.. Because of severe pain in neck and back. 2 days after I finished that I was only 75 percent better. My pain Dr gave me a steroid injection in my wrist and 3 across my shoulders… I felt so much better but that was 3 weeks ago. I’ve been so depressed, so angry impossible to live with. Losing my temper, missing work because I’m so angry and crying all the time. I’ve gone through this about 4 years ago. But when you’re in so much pain you forget the horrible outcome. I just want it to be over! I’m fighting with my boyfriend my daughter my entire family! I would just rather take a month off of work and rest before I take this road again.. Feeling very discouraged… Please help

    • Deb
      New Zealand

      My 90 year old mum was 4 years ago prescribed 80mg prednisone daily, which was a mistake. Her specialist saw her records and immediately reduced it down. Her doctor then argued that he was right all along (didn’t want some specialist telling him he was wrong) and now her prescriptions for Prednisone are several different strengths, and I’ve no idea WHAT she is taking. She refuses to get a medical blister-pack, (“Four Dollars a Month??” she screeched – “No!”) so in her confusion she could very well be overdosing herself. My mother became a different person, and still being on prednisone is still not back to her old self. She is angry, volatile, abusive, paranoid, blows little things out of all proportion, is demanding, critical and the list just goes on and on. Her immune system is now so compromised she spent 6 weeks in hospital earlier this year with a range of different infections, one after the other, including pneumonia. Now she is out, she wont see anyone because she might catch an infection. So she is isolated now into the bargain.

  21. DAWN

    An update from April 23, 2015……I am finally tapering down the Prednisone dose successfully! Yay! So far, so good. My blood work shows no inflammation now, so we are tapering very slowly, month by month. I can only decrease by 2.5mg per month, or by body reacts. Right now on 17.5mg, so this is going to take some time, but that’s fine as long as I finally get off of it! I must say that because of Prednisone I was put on numerous other meds, (glipizide, because of high blood sugar, zantac to help protect my stomach, HCTZ because I am retaining too much water) I will be glad to get rid of all these once I am off the Prednisone. Other side effects included total craziness and meltdowns at 40mg and a suppressed immune system which is probably how I got a kidney infection and shingles all in the same week 2 months ago. Experiencing hair loss, some skin problems and sweating right now. Prednisone helped my condition, (Temporal Arteritis); without it I could have gone blind or had a stroke, but I wish there had been another drug out there without all these side effects. I don’t know how people take it for years…..of course, I know they have no choice just like I didn’t. The risk of not taking it far outweighed the cure in my case and of numerous others. Just be well informed about what to expect if you are prescribed this drug.

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