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!

Join Over 90,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. GwenCarter

    Hello im on 1mg of prednisolone coming from 15ml since the last three months I cannot begin to express how awful I have felt and now since tapering’ how worse I’m feeling, firstly, headaches, arm pains, severe chest pains, frightening palpitations, stomach pains, and worse weakness in my spine that I can’t go out as not sure if I’ll get back home, as the excruciating pains in spine and makes me unable to walk , to the point I just fall. I feel so weird inside like I’m going crazy and I weep all the time.
    Oh sorry forgot to mention, I’m 65 and was put on steroids for suspected poly myalgia which since the steroids didn’t help, I’m now told I haven’t got but got fibromyalgia and now put on amytriptiline which I’m so scared of taking due to side effects. As for the Gp I see that’s no help whatsoever.

  2. Stephanie

    I have been on Prednisone several times for asthma and once for Bell’s Palsy. Thankfully, I have never had any bad psychological effects or physical effects. People are different, what works for one might not for another. It is good that you posted this though, because people will know what to look out for..which they should for any drug or treatment.

  3. Cecile
    Duluth, MN

    Last May I developed debilitating joint pain and stiffness in shoulders and hips. Diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR), an autoimmune condition which has no cure and symptoms can only be addressed with prednisone. I was reluctant to take it but desperate. My pain was significantly lessened hours after my first 15mg dose. Seven months later I am down to 6mg, my pain is controlled and I have not had severe side effects from prednisone. I guess I am one of the fortunate ones.

  4. Joyce

    I was admitted into the hospital for pulmonary distress. I was put on prednisone by IV. About 3rd day, I started feeling very anxious and panicky. I was on oxygen, also. I became very, very talkative. Racing thoughts, no sleep, irritable (very).

  5. Bobbie Helton

    I was given 40 mg predisone to be taken 20mg 2x day before temporal biopsy which came back negative thank God I had been on 5mg before this for severe ra with no problems. Since taking the higher dose I am jittery-moody-hateful-my bp is elevated and heart rate goes up and down I wake up 3 to 4 am so anxious I feel like punching walls. I am afraid to start tapering off on my own Today is Saturday and can’t see Dr. Until Monday If biopsy was neg. Should’nt I be able to come back down to 5 mg.r

  6. Jan

    As far as I am concerned, the last year has been the worst of my life due to the Steroid side effects. But you cannot just stop taking it.wish I had been warned about the dreadful side effects and I would never have taken it. Thought some days I was going crazy.I can put up with the joint pain as long as I can sleep and that my head is clear. I am now told that the side effects may not go away after I have stopped taling it!! something to look forewards to I am sure.

  7. Dawn

    Update from January 18, 2016. I have been getting a lot of withdrawal symptoms since I tapered to 3 mg of Prednisone. Headaches, itchy skin, sleeplessness yet again, red bumps on only 1 forearm (weird!). Today I am down to 2 mg for two weeks and then 1 mg for two weeks, then I am done. I am determined to tough it out, no matter what the withdrawal is like because I want off of this drug. My doctor doesn’t always agree with me that these symptoms are from the withdrawal, but then she doesn’t have the time to research online like I do. There are many, many people complaining about the same symptoms when they taper down and even after they are completely off Prednisone.

    • Jan

      Hello I am the same. First on 30 mgs per day . When I First tapered to 25 mgs hospitalised with inner shakes, rapid heart beat, could not breathe properly runny nose, vision impairment.Body aches you name it, every test ok pred taper caused it. In mean time since then, not sleeping. Hot then co ld and feeling as if going mad mentally.Now down to 4.5 mgs two weeks ago and the body aches are cruel. All other symptoms are not so bad now on lesser dose except for pain in joints . Never know which bit is going to hurt next.!!! Supposed to decrease 0.5 mg per month but reluctant as I know it is going to hurt. Some more!!! But determined to tough it out.

  8. Sheena

    My Mom was diagnosed with Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma that started in her ovaries November last year, her oncologist immediately put her in RCHOP chemotherapy, that includes her to take 50mg of Prednisone twice a day for 5 days after her chemo cycles.

    She was hospitalized for straight 2 months and her onco started her on corticosteroids 2 weeks before her 1st cycle, her behavioral changes and other side effects were off the charts, the doctors said the culprit may be her PCA because of fentanyl… after 1st cycle her condition improved there is a large decrease in her tummy size, ascites were gone, CTT was removed and NGT for decompression was pulled out too. All in all my mom’s response to chemo is very good, the side effects worsen after her 2nd cycle when we were discharged. She had tremors and even had cognitive lapses at some point. These symptoms subside after her nadir phase. Her onco is still speculating that the cognitive lapses tremors and behavioral changes were due to her fentanyl patch and rescue doses of oxycodone. I was a bit skeptical with prednisone already and aired to her, she said it’s highly unlikely coz she’s only taking it for 5 days… she speculating for a possible CNS metastases, which made me worry 1 million times than before. 1 week after her 2nd Nadir phase tremors were gone she’s back to being our mom again, my mom is a retired College professor, her intellectual capabilities is above normal, and seeing her having cognitive lapses breaks my heart and alarms me.

    She got out of her fentanyl patches and rescue doses of oxycodone before her 3rd cycle. She just had her 3rd cycle this Wednesday… her tremors are back, no cognitive lapses yet, she’s sleepless, BG is through the roof, nauseous has diarrhea and very emotional. I reported this to her oncologist and she said hand tremors are not normal and that prednisone is not to blame… I searched the net for side effects of prednisone and i was brought here… I’m positive that my mom’s symptoms are from her prednisone… i hope her symptoms goes away sooner… and I hope that the real culprit of my mom’s symptoms is her prednisone… I hate words like metastases, relapse and PML…

    Everyone please pray for my mom…

  9. Darren

    Had “tennis elbow”, was prescribed 20mg twice a day. Doctor never mentioned side effects. Got prescription and then saw side effects, 1st dose, got lightheaded, lasted a couple days and was fine after. Was not told to come back for tapered dose. Now that I have stopped, I have on my torso, little red bumps, front and back, muscle soreness, dull headache, joint pain, and get this one” feeling like I have a fever, but normal temp.”, can’t sleep. All for a sore elbow!!

  10. K


  11. Angie
    Concord, NC

    Reading through all of these comments has made me realize I am not crazy. So, thank you all. Today is my first day off Prednisone following a 12 day taper (three days of 5 pills, three of 4. etc). I was prescribed this for a pinched nerve in my neck that radiated halfway down my spine with accompanying muscle spasms. The pain I was having at times was comparable to the natural childbirth I had.

    Over the course of this horrible medication, the most worrying things I’ve had, and honestly thought it was nerve damage I’ve developed, is the severe tingling and numbness down both arms, considerable weakness in my left arm, to the point that I could not manipulate a razor to shave under my right arm. It’s like my bran had disconnected the motor impulses. I’ve got this feeling radiating down both legs into the bottoms of my feet. I’ve been baffled how this could happen from my cervical spine. Now, I wonder how much is attributed to this drug.

    My other symptoms have been the hot red face and neck, feels like I’m placing my head into an oven. Racing, pounding heart. Mania, insomnia….I may sleep for an hour, then I’m bug-eyed awake. Night sweats… oh sweet lord, the night sweats…and now day sweats. At times I feel like I’m on fire. Today I woke up thinking I must have fallen down the stairs in my sleep, my muscle pain and even my skin itself, is so pronounced. I feel like I am running around on skates, shorty of breath, shaky, blurred vision, headache. Bloating, belching, horrible indigestion, and even the air tastes funny. Horrible dry mouth and nasal membranes (which funnily enough my sinuses opened up this morning).

    I’m sitting here typing and feeling like I have needles in my arms and hands. I HATE this. And all that I’m reading makes sense….the number of people with my same complaints are astounding. My heart goes out to all who have to take this drug long term. I’ve taken it before with minimal problems (sleeplessness, increased appetite, irritability, bloating), but never more than the 5 day taper. This time, it got me. I feel like someone else is living in my skin.

  12. Cliff

    I posted earlier under Wendy’s post as hers hit me right off the bat instead of waiting and making mine a separate list.

    In the grand scheme of things I think every one of our posts is just one continuation of the very first. We all seem to have the same effects from this drug, some may be more advanced, or include additional reactions, and that could quite possibly be to amounts we are taking or because of the symptoms were trying to mask induce each of us into additional side effects. Who knows.

    In my case I was on a drug that apparently is the most widely used for blood pressure because of its minimal side effects. Lucky me I fell into the not just rare case of allergy reaction, but into what I have found is the extreme rare case of reaction. So now am on a drug to keep me alive temporarily that also has severe side effects and it appears I’m getting most of the worse ones from it.

    The medical community does their best I’m sure to take care of us and we must have faith in them, however in the future (if I have one) I will be more cognitive by asking more about the symptoms of any drug that may be prescribed to me before popping that little pill into my mouth.

    Good luck to all and remember to keep smiling. :)

  13. Dawn

    I have been on Prednisone for over one year for Giant Cell Arteritis. Started on 40mg and currently on 3mg, tapering down by 1mg every two weeks. It’s been a rough ride, and I can’t wait to get off! So many side effects, from emotional meltdowns to severe edema and tinnitus in one ear. Prednisone suppresses the immune system also, so 3 months in I got shingles, too… not fun! Recently, although I am tapering down and on a low dose, my lower legs swelled so much I thought they would explode. Was sent to cardiologist, but no problems found there. Was sent to a vascular surgeon, and okay there.

    This is all a big mystery to the doctors, but I believe it’s the Prednisone. I am currently taking furosemide and potassium, and my legs are feeling so much better now. I did have a lot of sleep problems when on higher doses. Thank goodness that has stopped on the lower dose. I still have the moon face and weight gain, (about 25 lbs); I am guessing that won’t change until I am completely free of the Prednisone. That day can’t come quickly enough, God willing, and if I have no relapses I should be off by the end of Feb. 2016! Yay!

  14. Allison

    I have been on 3 rounds of methylprednisone in the past 2-2.5 months. I was prescribed the first 2 due to severe eczema that had turned into staph. The doctor wanted to keep it under control so I wouldn’t have to use more antibiotics. These doses started with 20mg on Day 1 and tapered down for a week.

    Most recently. in January, I developed bronchitis (I’m asthmatic). The doctor prescribed a new dose: 40 mg a day for 5 days and then taper down over the next week. Having been on steroids recently, I knew what the side effects were. I did not realize how much worse they could get. Day 1-5:I would fall asleep for an hour and then be up the rest of the night. My body felt like there was a current of electricity running through it. I was anxious, irritable and DEEPLY depressed (I’ve never been depressed in my life). I felt like I needed to get out of my skin, and there was NO relief. I ended up in the ER twice. The first time, it was due to the anxiety and ‘craziness’. They took me off of the steroid IMMEDIATELY. The second time (2 days later) I was having EXTREMELY STRONG ideas of suicide. I only told the doctor about the intense anxiety as I couldn’t cope with being kept in the hospital for 3 days. It seemed like a HUGE hurdle (What do I do about the animals? What do I do about work? Who has a key? What if they don’t follow through?).

    As of now, I have been off the steroids for 3 days. This is the first semblance of calm I have felt. The most disconcerting thing for me is the fact that I have been on this medication in the past, and it wasn’t too bad. The idea that the same chemical can have such adverse side effects is frightening. Yet, I’m glad it happened because at least I have the knowledge now.

    • Shirley

      Am going to visit my brother in Kentucky, he has a bad back from a fall on an oil rig years ago. Doctors put him on prednisone off and on since , and sometimes with hydros and neurotin, very bad combinations, to him his pain in his back worsened and he did take too much prednisone, they’ve recently weened him off but not soon enough, he’s not slept in past 6-8 weeks, going from a mild sweetheart of a person to a violent unpredictable yelling screaming phychotic raving cursing individual, they admitted him to psyche ward, put him on Hydol and ambien to help him sleep, his poor wife is not well either,he’s lashing out at everyone and they say is prednisone, we are praying he somehow returns to normal.

  15. Virginia M.

    I’ve been prescribed prednisone at different times, usually in a dose pack that tapered off. However, after being diagnosed with autoimmune liver problems, the only course of treatment began with 60mg of prednisone each morning, daily, until otherwise told. Very quickly, I began to have problems with anger, shakiness, rapid heartbeat, and it was so bad that I dropped down to 40mg instead. The doctor wasn’t happy about that, but I’m also my father’s caregiver, and I was unable to deal productively with his needs on 60mg. As it turned out, 40mg was doing what needed to be done! Praise God!

    Even so, the side effects continue, and I’ve been on 40mg for 6 weeks plus knowing that I will have to stay on it indefinitely. I have days where I’m unable to cook or clean house, even laundry is hard to do unless I have help. Some days are much more productive, allowing me to drive and make meals, but I’m sure it will be a while before I’m able to be back to normal.

    Doctors gave me a second drug to use, expecting it to help, but it caused more problems than the prednisone! Until that is out of my system, I hesitate to say any other side effects, except for my face swelling and blood sugar being higher. I’m sure that the prednisone plays a role in both of those problems. I’ll post more, after I get this Mercaptopurine out of my system.

  16. Sandi
    Omaha NE

    I am currently on methylprednisolone infusion therapy for Graves related Thyroid Eye Disease. It’s 1x week at 500mg for 6 weeks. I am having massive mood swings and have to take Tylenol PM to sleep at night. The indigestion is bad.

    The side effects aren’t too bad other than my poor kiddos with my moodiness. I take an antacid in the evening to defeat the indigestion. My eye disease was diagnosed as moderately active and my left eye does protrude, with tissue inflammation in my eyes, double vision and eye pain.

    I guess I’m stuck due to the eye issues, but I am still concerned about long term effects. My question is the wear on my liver. I do not drink alcohol. Also with the IV 1 time a week then after 6 weeks nothing — is this going to be ugly at that point???? Any feedback would be so helpful!!! Thank you!!

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.