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. Victoria

    I was prescribed prednisone 50mg for 5 days due to anaphylactic shock .
    Day 1-2 no side effects
    Day 3 -5- agitated , aggression , mood changes , depression , dry mouth .
    Once coming off this drug my body felt very sore . Felt as if I was bruised internally everywhere .
    The drug helped me at my time of need but at a cost I wish not to relive again .

  2. DAWN

    Update from June 27, 2015…….I still continue to taper the Prednisone dose slowly, reducing by 2.5mg per month. Right now on 12.5mg per day for a month, then will go to 10mg per month. Once I am on 10mg I will only reduce the dose by 1mg per month until I am completely off of this drug. I am hopeful I will not relapse, (Temporal Arteritis). This has been a long journey with many more months ahead of me, but at least I am showing progress and improvement. The doctor took me off of the Glipazide already as my fasting blood sugar is normal now; other blood work results are great also. I am working on losing the weight gained while on Prednisone, (about 20 lbs), hopefully this will come off soon! I am wondering about other side effects and the outcome once I am off Prednisone. I lost a lot of hair for a while, now that has stopped and my hair has changed somewhat, coming back curly!?? Anyone experience that? I did Google it and read that it happens. My puffy face is going down and skin is better, but still having sleep issues. I also developed tinnitus which is slight but still there and wondering if that will vanish once I am off. Believe me, the months can’t go by fast enough for me now. I want to be off this drug!

  3. sharan

    I have to use prednisone every four months for allergies, sinus infections and stomach problems, I never have any problems with it, it is a life saver, it makes me normal again!! I don’t know what I would do without it… Sorry to hear that it is not working for some of you..

  4. Valery
    South Africa

    My doctor prescribed 40mg of prednisone for 5 days due to sinusitis and an allergy, I’m not someone that usually completes my meds as I don’t like taking chemicals to cure a mild illness, I normally take vit supplements and or make some kind of herbal concoction, for that, it takes longer to heal but its safer. Anyways this time around I decided to follow docs orders after having an health episode earlier this year, the predisones helped relieve my symptoms for about 3 days or so, although I became hyper active, had food cravings, I think this was because of gastritis, my stomach became bloated and gasy, I was burping alot, to top it all I swear I started seeing and hearing things, a few minutes after dosing off, I’d get these strange thoughts or visions of scary things, heart palpitations and over sensitive hearing, before taking the meds I surfed the internet for side effects and came across an unbelievably long list, despite that I still took them as directed by my doctor “as doctor’s know best”, 2 days Iater I went back to the doctor and mentioned to her that I wasn’t getting any better, instead she told me to continue taking my meds without even acknowledging the side effects and atleast suggesting that I taper instead of abruptly stopping.
    Today is day 7, my second day since my last dose, I had nightmares last night, indigestion and heartburn plus the effects of the heartburn, pain along my arm, pain in my chest, back and stomach. I felt disorientated the whole day, thought I wasn’t going to make it across the road safely, it’s like I’m present physically but not mentally, I am extremely moody and agitated.
    I’m sorry to hear that so many people are suffering from the adverse side effects of this drug, but in a way I feel some what relieved that I’m not crazy. I shall never take this drug again unless maybe I’m diagnosed with a terminal illness but not without exploring other options first.
    I hope everyone who is currently going through withdrawal symptoms has a speedy recovery.

  5. Kelley Sorensen

    I started on intaveinous predislone the started on 60mg daily for 1 week then dropping to 50mg I’m now on 40mg and I’ve been suffering severe mania and anxiety I’ve had terrible shaking and terrible visual hallucinations like massive spiders crawling around me I even started self harming I had to call an ambulance to help me calm down, I’ve now been given olanzpine anti psychotic’s to ease my mania I would not recommend taking this steroid ever very evil medication.

  6. Diane
    Toowoomba Australia

    I have been diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatica with giant cell arteritis just after Easter 2015 and was immediately put on 60mg of prednisone for 3 months. The side affects have been life changing for me. My eyes are badly affected with one eye continually half closed and the other with blurred watery vision. I’m very unsteady on my feet so I need to use walking sticks most days. I have numbness/tingling in the soles of my feet, insomnia, face lesions, swollen red moon face and a very low immune system. Specialist rheumatologist weaning me down to 10mg per day by mid November 2015 and doing weekly blood tests. She’s very thorough, but I worry about the long term effects on my eyes. I.e. Will my sight return to normal? D.E.G.C.

  7. Kris
    Cairns, Australia

    I was prescribed Prednisone for my Cluster Headaches at the rate of 175mg for the first day tapering down to nothing over a period of about 4 months. This happened every year for a number of years. The side effects were unbearable and I’d beg the neurologist to try another medication but he insisted I stay on this. At the time I had no idea it was wreaking havoc with my bones. I had a minor motorcycle accident where I broke my back and became a paraplegic from having such weak bones. There were no warning signs of osteoporosis and no-one every suggested I have a bone scan. Eventually after 7 years of being in a wheelchair I managed to convince a doctor to refer me for the bone scan and the results came back with a T score of -3.3 (severe osteoporosis). A doctor has since suggested I take Prednisone again for these headaches and he couldn’t understand why I flat out refused! I can no longer walk or stand or work, am in constant agonising pain and I still get the headaches. Go figure!

    • Lupus

      Took 65mg of predisone for 2 1/2 yrs. It was unbearable. Needless to say it was due to punmonia and other thing however it never helped my migraines. Yes For years I did know they were from LUPUS cause I didn’t know I had it. Anyway I do see a neurologist strictly for migraines and she injects botox throughout and at certain points surrounding my head every three months and it works!

    • Lupus

      Took 65mg of predisone for 2 1/2 yrs. It was unbearable. Needless to say it was due to punmonia and other thing however it never helped my migraines. Yes For years I didn’t know they were from LUPUS cause I didn’t know I had it. Anyway I do see a neurologist strictly for migraines and she injects botox throughout and at certain points surrounding my head every three months and it works!

  8. Marion

    I had double pneumonia and some asthma and was hospitalized.
    With the first 50 mg dose of prednisone I had a short hallucination (about 8 seconds) where I saw a devil on the roof with his claws evolving towards me ) -didn’t happen with the second dose however.
    I had no idea they were connected until I talked to people about it at a later date.


    I can relate to these side effects. My life with my husband who is taking prednisone is a living hell.

  10. RMK

    I have taken Prednisone Pack 10 mg many times for my RA, I had no side effects as those listed in some of the post, the only side effect I had was it made me eat a lot more. It is the only thing that helps my pain when I have a bad RA flare up. Don’t let the other articles scare you Prednisone is not all bad, maybe some people just can’t take steroids, not just Prednisone any type of steroid medication it just happen to be prednisone they were prescribed.

  11. john

    I have had reactive arthritis now in my hands for 8 weeks. The consultant prescribed me a six-week course of Prednisone: 30 mg for 7 days then tapering to 25mg for 7 days.

    The first night was last night. I did not sleep at all. Thought I was going insane. I had a very strong headache and went downstairs at 4am for water. My lower legs ached and felt so heavy I struggled to get back up. I got back into bed but my legs would not stop shaking, and my head was banging.
    The worst night of my life.

    Anyway, I took it again this morning, thinking that the Doctor knows best and now have a full blown severe headache. I then started to research and found these posts and will not be taking this drug again. The side effects are way worse than the pain in my hands and with the possibility of many more as I continue. Glad I stumbled onto this page.

  12. Barbara

    Now I’m a little scared. My husband has been in the hospital for 3 days getting 500mg of prednisone a day and then we have 6 weeks more of it at home for bad panuveitis. Has anyone ever had this high a dose?

    • Marion

      Omg -I know nothing about dosages but I thought 50 mg was high!

    • sss

      I was on 50mg /day of Prednisolone for several months last year and dropped to 37.5mg/day until the end of 2014.

      I have incurable, chronic sarcoidosis of my lungs an auto-immune disease where your body attacks the lung tissue. The first symptom of a flare up is uveitis of either one or both eyes. Prednisolone and the eye drop version Predniferen are the only drugs I have. I will die of the effects of sarcoid eventually, I have just over 10 years left. I also have chronic asthma and prone to lung infections.

      Right now I am coming of a course of 25mg/day after another flare up since May this year. I’m down to 12.5mg/day and coming off it VERY slowly and gradually, such is the sensitivity I have to prednisolone levels.

      Because of Prednisolone, I have daily bouts of nausea, disrupted and irregular sleep patterns, migraines and frequent visits to the toilet because of fluid build up. Long term damage now includes brittle bones.

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