Depression-min

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.”

-AC

“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.”
-AMS

“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.”
-ELY

“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.”
-SKF

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. Wanda
    Oh
    Reply

    Started on 60mg of Prednisone nearly eight months ago… tapered down to 5mg right now for four weeks. Lost 1/3 of my hair, moon face, swollen burning eyes daily, weight gain, and swollen legs and feet. Awful stuff. Have another year to take it…. wish I could feel as good as I did a year ago… I’m 91.

  2. Katy
    Central Illinois
    Reply

    I had a viral uri a year ago (Feb 22nd was dxed). I have lupus and psoriatic arthritis and take Enbrel and mtx and therefore am very severely immunosuppressed. Illnesses last a loong time.

    The uri segued into an asthmatic bronchitis flare up that was so severe and extreme that over the months of March and April 2015, I had 6 IV infusions of 180mg steroids. Can’t remember name. Along with this, two Kenalog shots (steroid) and 80mg prednisone a day in divided doses.

    I have been mostly on high dose oral steroids and Kenalog injections for over a year now. The oral was 80mg, 60mg or 40mg a day depending on severity of my asthmatic bronchitis flare up. I had periods of 3-6 weeks when I was off of all steroids but the asthma always came back. I have been off 10 days of 40mg plus Kenalog shot for 4 weeks now. I am desperate not to have to go back on but I probably will eventually.

    I have the terrible “moon face” side effect. My face is huge, round and swollen. My eyes are nearly slits. I have the fat deposit across my neck just under chin. I have an enormous, freakish torso. It has made my stomach huge, I look 9 months pregnant. I have the “buffalo hump” on the back of my neck atop my shoulders. I have gained huge amount of weight just in the torso.

    The steroids gave me severe diabetes that didn’t stop when they did. I inject Victoza once a day, then when I am on steroids, I also have to inject insulin up to 5 times a day. One day, the steroids caused my sugar to peg at 443 – ER territory, but insulin brought it down, required two large doses.

    I got severe cataracts in both eyes such that I could not read or drive even in my glasses. I had surgery and lens replacement on both eyes. My bones are basically chalk now. I just started Fosamax to try to keep fractures away if it can, over time. I have tremors in my hands that no longer go away when the drugs get out of my system. Doc said they are mine to keep.

    So. Not to minimize the “40mg for a week” issues, but just know if you have to haul out the big guns, you are in for a world of hurt. I would give anything for just the crazies, sleeplessness and all the rest.

  3. Eric
    Ohio
    Reply

    I was prescribed prednisone while in the Navy and developing a severe allergic reaction. After my third episode of anaphylaxis, the allergist put me on prednisone, benadryl, claritin, as well as a number of other antihistamines.

    I was able to wean off of the medications after being medically discharged from the Navy and moving to a different area. This was all after it was too late because prednisone weakens ring muscles in the body and I developed acid reflux and IBSD due to stomach acid not staying where it should be. I also developed depression and at times odd feelings of anger and mania.

    It prevented the life threatening reactions I was having but I was on it for 3 straight years (daily dose). over 15 years later, my acid reflux, IBS, and depression hasn’t gotten anything but worse. Dr’s should be required to discuss the side effects of prednisone when they prescribe it. 3 years of this medication have changed my quality of life since.

  4. Maria
    MA
    Reply

    I was prescribed last Tuesday prednisone 20 mg per tablet (2 tablets daily) for 4 days last week in ER after having a severe allergic reaction. ER doctor gave me 3 prednisone while in ER and said I didn’t need to worry about tapering off. Saturday am I took last dose.

    Sunday am about 2 am I woke up with hives and itching. Took benadryl. Since stopping Prednisone I have had extreme fatigue and my muscles ache. My joints ache as well. While on it I had such stomach issues (cramping and diarrhea) and energy like I’ve never known. Cleaning my house all night long. Still having stomach issues since stopping. Just got back from dr. and was told aches couldn’t be from prednisone as I wasn’t on it long enough. Likely stress. Stress??

    The craziest thing is the only reason I had to take it in first place is because ENT/allergist gave me incorrect dosage of my pollen allergy injection. Supposed to get .2 cc and they gave me .3 which caused my reaction. Didn’t find this out until next day. If I wasn’t on prednisone long enough to have withdrawal symptoms then why am I feeling this way?

  5. Linda
    New York
    Reply

    I was prescribed 40mg of Prednisone for 5 days because of pain behind my knee and down my leg. I could barely walk. After one day on prednisone I felt like a new person. I did have a mild headache from the pill. I am still not 100% better, but at least I feel like I have my life back. I was going to ask for a renewal on the pills but after reading all the horrible side effects some people are suffering from, I think I’ll just be grateful for how I feel now.

  6. John
    Missouri
    Reply

    For more than 10 years I was told I had Oral Lichen Planis and nothing could be done, then a new biopsy indicated I had linear IGA disease. A drug mostly used for Leprosy was first tried and didn’t work then I was on 60 mg of Prednisone for 3 months to try and clear my mouth up. At first it seemed to be working and boosted energy, then it became apparent that limits had been reached and symptoms set in, bleeding gums, nose, and eruptions on the skin. As I started withdrawal heavy muscle and joint pain set in along with extreme fatigue and the usual blood and sugar issues. I am currently at 25 mg and can barely hobble around with a cane; my left hip, knee and ankle joints grind and pop with every shuffling step, the pain is intense and nothing seems to provide relief. The pain I had {which has returned} was easier to deal with.

  7. Michael
    Arkansas
    Reply

    I am SO thankful I found this site. I was beginning to think I was literally crazy, but after reading through multiple comments here, I realize I’m definitely not the only one experiencing side effects from Prednisone.

    A little over a month ago, I became very ill and had to go to the ER. I was diagnosed with a severe sinus infection and as a result of the infection, had my first ever bout with vertigo (which is awful and I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy).

    Fast forward a month and after 2 different doctors, another ER visit, and a list of medications a half a mile long, I was finally prescribed 500mg of Erythromycin twice-a-day, 5 mg of Prednisone twice-a-day, and 25 mg of Meclizine to be taken as needed.

    After a 2-3 days, I could tell I was feeling better. However, I began to realize that at certain points during the day, I would begin to feel absolutely awful. My heart would begin to race, my head would hurt, I would begin to sweat, and I would also feel shortness of breath. I literally thought I was having a heart attack or a brain aneurysm (or both). I was also having terrible mood swings and VERY depressed thoughts. Thinking I just needed to suck it up, I continued taking the meds. Finally, after exactly one week, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I called my doctor’s office and spoke to a nurse and explained to her all the symptoms I was having and that I figured it was from the Prednisone. She advised me to stop taking it immediately and to continue taking the Erythromycin. Today is Wednesday and I took my last Prednisone tablet on Monday. I’m still feeling the side-effects. Yesterday wasn’t to bad, but today when I woke up I felt like I was having a panic attack and now as I sit here this afternoon and type at my desk, I still feel shortness of breath, my heart racing, and moments where I think I might pass out.

    I am SO ready for my system to rid itself of this drug!!! Had I known all of the possible side effects of Prednisone, I never would have taken it. I am SO glad I found this site. I was beginning to wonder if I was literally losing my mind psychologically. This drug can have MAJOR effects on you so please consult your doctor or pharmacist THOROUGHLY before deciding to take it.

  8. Ellen Gregory
    Reply

    About 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with oral lichen planus (an auto-immune disease that turns your body against itself). The doctor prescribed 40 mg of prednisone a day, which I took for some amount of time. Shortly after that I developed diabetes and have been taking metformin ever since. The doctor never told me of any side effects that the prednisone would cause, but even if he had I think I would have taken the chance anyway of taking it because the inside of my mouth had deteriorated to the point that I sounded as though I had a horrible speech impediment when I tried to speak. And eating was getting to the point that my gums were so painful that I considered going on a soft diet only. So, long story short, prednisone saved me from the torture that I was going through with my gums and palate, but unfortunately caused the diabetes.

  9. Patricia
    U.K.
    Reply

    I am a female in my 70s and normally in good health, I have always looked after myself and have a good happy life. Until I was prescribed steroids prednisone 9months ago starting on 60mg. I have experienced most of the dreadful side effects and couldn’t wait to come off them, after tapering very slowly I took my final tablet in February 2016 and expected things to get better, but I was mistaken.
    It has now been 8 weeks since my last tablet and I am feeling awful. I am exhausted all the time some days not even able to get up, I have dreadful pain in my joints, insomnia, skin problems my insides seem to shake and I can’t deal with the smallest situation, yesterday my hairdresser told me my hair is thinning, these things are difficult to cope with and I feel down a lot of the time which is so unlike my normal optimistic and positive self, but the hardest thing is what it’s doing to my head, I am disorientated and I feel as though I have somebody else’s head on my shoulders, it’s got so bad I am scared to drive.
    I don’t know how long these side effects last can anyone else identify with me.
    I would also like to comment on what I call neglect from the medical profession, the only advice I got from my consultant is they may make me a bit hyper, I wasn’t monitored throughout the 9 months until near the end when I complained, when after reading one of these sites and realising that I should have been getting blood tests etc.
    Every time I have told him of my problems he has replied it was nothing to do with the steroids.

  10. Dawn
    Arizona
    Reply

    Well, I finally made it! Off of Prednisone, that is! I took my last dose of 1mg on Feb. 28, 2016 after being on it for 13 months for GCA.

    The taper took many, many months as I went very slowly and the withdrawal symptoms were worse than being on the meds. Believe me, I had almost all the side effects mentioned while on the drug, but withdrawing from it was terrible! Headaches, joint aches, insomnia, irritability, low blood pressure, chills, weakness, and a horrendously red, itchy rash which moved around my body week by week. This necessitated a trip to the dermatologist who told me that I had developed Photosensitivity from the Prednisone. I never go out in the sun so how did that happen? I believe that the nerves under my skin had just become hypersensitive once I tapered the Prednisone down.

    Anyway, the dermatologist said she was going to give me a 60mg injection of Prednisone……hahaha! ” NO WAY, doc, I said!! I just came off that stuff, absolutely not.” She prescribed some cream that has steroids in it and I hardly used any. The rash moved from one part of my body to the next, but as it left each area the itching and redness just vanished. It took about a month to finally stop.

    I must say that the dermatologist came up with the diagnosis of Photosensitivity because at the time, only the parts of my body exposed to the sun were affected. That quickly changed to parts unseen by the sun, that is why I disagree with her diagnosis. That said, she did mention that Prednisone can do strange things to a person.

    So, after a month free of Prednisone I am feeling so much better and sleeping again normally. My joints are still aching a bit, but getting better. The weight gained, (25lbs), is still with me……it doesn’t disappear like magic, folks. I will have to work hard on that. My blood sugar was still up somewhat a month ago, but hopefully, it has come down by now.

    I am glad I had Prednisone to help my condition as there is no other drug available for it, but I would never again stay on it for such a long time and I would insist on tapering sooner and faster, if possible. It’s been a rough year and I hope that I will be 100% back to normal soon and not have any lasting effects from the drug.

    • Jane
      NJ
      Reply

      I was diagnosed with GCA, a year and a half ago. I was on prednisone all that time. I’ve been off prednisone for 3 months, and I have weak, achy, muscles! . It gets even worse when I exercise. My shoulders, hips, thighs, feet and hands ache all the time, even in the middle of the night. It’s exhausting.
      Not sure what to do, doctors have very little suggestions.
      I became diabetic, so taking metformin and had high cholesterol so was taking statin. I went off statin 2 months ago, because statin is known to affect muscles. But still have the weak, achy muscles.

  11. Guy
    Alberta
    Reply

    I was first treated with 5 X IvIg. Then refused the Prednisone the neuro wanted me to take . However 5/6 weeks later I went into a full Myasthenia Gravis crisis…meaning being intubated and on a respirator. Perhaps thanks to the high dose of Prednisone{40mg?}. I came off the respirator 10 days later. Since I didn’t have the added stress of needing to go to work, the fluoxetene(Prozac) was evaluated as too strong. For about a year I was on high dose of Prednisone up to 65mg. I was started at 40mg in september of 2013. Tried the Prozac for about 2/3 months, waited a month the switched to SAM-e 400mg on an empty stomach in the morning. I eventually added light therapy daily preferably in the morning. The combo has been effective in giving me stable and positive moods with basically no side effect. However I have been on 5/15mg alternate days since spring 2015 and recently since March 2016 I query if the insomnia is linked to the days I take my Prednisone 15mg in the morning. Give me a few more weeks then I’ll know for sure.

  12. Mollycat
    Oxfordshire England
    Reply

    i have been on Prednisolone since the beginning of December and it is now the end of March and it really is the medicine of the devil, I still have to stay on it until the end of May that’s if I don’t come off of it on my own accord, I have lots of the side effects from this terrible medicine the worst one is the swelling of my face and body, I feel dreadful, looking in the mirror I see someone i just don’t recognise it’s awful. The reason for my taking this dreadful stuff is Mold in my lung, I have read on another forum that if the cause of the mold is removed the condition will go of it’s own accord. I wish I had been told about all of these side effect because I really would never have put myself through this.

  13. John
    Thailand
    Reply

    I’ve just been prescribed Prednisolone for a sudden hearing loss in one ear.
    My doctor here in Thailand has prescribed quantities of 10 x 5 mg tablets taken after breakfast followed by 9 x 5 mg tablets after lunch. A daily total of 19 x 5 mg tablets.
    After reading some of the above comments I have real doubts about continuing with the treatment. I’m only on day one and am now looking at stopping the medication.
    Anyone out there with positive feed back??

  14. JimA
    AZ
    Reply

    I’ve been on prednisone for almost three months. I started at 15mg for a month, 2.5mg for a month, now at 10gm. I think I might be having withdrawal symptoms of fuzzy headed thinking and some confusion. Feeling a little depressed at times and can’t sleep some nights now. Does this sound like symptoms of the prednisol? It worked great for what I needed it for. Polymyalgia Rheumatica. Fixed me right up in a few hours and I was feeling very good. Although I had a mild headache for the first month. It seems to have passed. I getting a crawling skin feeling on my head sometimes. But I can live with that. It’s the confusion occasionally when doing things that worries me. Physically I feel pretty good. Not so sure about my mind.

  15. Stacey
    Virginia
    Reply

    I had developed a bilateral lung infection/bacterial pneumonia, and within two days was so bad I could barely breathe at all. I was wheezing and coughing all night. I felt like I was drowning. I saw my doctor who immediately said she didn’t want to mess with waiting for a culture and put me on high dose antibiotics and a Zpack /step-down pack of Prednisone. I’d known a little about possible side effects from having been prescribed it years ago for a severe burn to my lower leg. So, I thought I was prepared. I wasn’t.

    6 pills the first day, 5 the next, 4 the day after and so on until they were gone. For one week I felt amazing. I could breathe without feeling like I was going to drown, and I had more energy. That was great. I felt like it saved my life, but the real side effects didn’t start until after I’d stopped taking the drug.

    That’s when the confusion, muscle weakness, blurred vision and worst of all,delicate tissue tears, began. I’ve been off the drug for nearly two weeks now, and the confusion and blurred vision have subsided some but the muscle weakness and tissue tears are still a constant problem. The tissue tears are the worst really. They’re delicate tissues so it’s a constant horrible reminder. Basic everyday functions cause severe pain, burning, and even bleeding. I wasn’t prepared for this and it’s effected my intimate relations with my life partner. I can’t be touched (even to wipe myself) without bleeding. It constantly itches and burns. I’m a mess. I want to cry all the time. I just feel so lost.

    I know it did save my life but the after-effects are so horrible and life altering that if there was an alternative I really wish my doctor had thought of it first.
    I wish I knew how long this will continue so I could see light at the end of this tunnel. This is so horrible!

  16. Sher
    Los Angeles
    Reply

    I have rheumatoid arthritis and had to miss my Remicade infusion by 2 weeks due to pneumonia . When I received it I was given 60 mg pred and. 30 mg taper script. I was in an awful RA flare.

    Now, I’ve done the pred thing before. Nothing much as far as side effects except being more assertive. But this time…. Anxiety, depersonalization, shaking. You name it. And it’s been only 3 days. I’m stopping it now. Xanax doesn’t even help.

  17. Konni
    NC
    Reply

    I was put on Prednisone to treat an inflamed lung due to aggressive radiation treatments for breast cancer. I was told about the sleep and weight gain problems and was on the drug for a month, starting with 3 pills a day, two the next week, 1 1/2 the following week and then 1/2 pill for a week. The breathing didn’t improve and I was put back on one 20 mg. pill a day. I get angry easily, have trouble getting a full night’s sleep, have fluid retention problems and have decided to ease off the Prednisone and let my lung heal itself. I’m 84 and I trust my body to take care of itself. The power of positive thinking is part of my life philosophy and I need to get back in balance. The chemo and radiation treatments stopped in February and I just need to get all those chemicals out of my system. I was on chemo for a year. I need a life back.

    • Lorena
      Canada
      Reply

      You likely have a yeast infection which is a side effect of prednisone but very curable. The treatment is availble over the counter at phatmacies in Canada. Not sute in other countries. Please see your doctor. No need to suffer.

  18. Juanita
    9722 bud street Hudson Florida 34669
    Reply

    I’ve been on prednisone for about 25 years,that is after having a baby. they discovered I arthritis RA and they gave me it. They stop taking the insurance I was on they gave me a new one they gave me it to and so on I live. I was trying to hurry up and get some were took a step and I heard aloud crack in my hip plus felt xxx trem pain couldnt put my weight on that hip felt broke went to the hospital ,they seen me took xrays then told me I have to stay ,saying I needed hip surgery next day he said that he wouldn’tanother doctor came and she told me that she wanted a second opinion because she thought that he was wrong. My hip was very bad and deteriorating. The other doctor would not even see me because I was on Prednisone until I could get off of it no doctor would ever touch me that’s all I’m going to say for now I am in the dark please help

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