a bottle of PredniSONE 1mg

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. Being deaf in one ear was incredibly disorienting.

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 for some people.

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. We have heard from a surprising number of people that they were given very little information about corticosteroid side effects.

Scary Prednisone side effects that have been reported to us:

A.C. shared this story:

“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.”

When people are unprepared for the psychological side effects of prednisone they can be caught off guard. So can family, friends and co-workers. In A.C.’s case the prednisone was was essential for survival. That said, A.C. should have been alerted to possible side effects!

A.M.S was not told how to stop steroids:

“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.”

We mentioned earlier, corticosteroids are essential drugs for many conditions. A severe asthma attack may require a short course of oral prednisone or a similar steroid. People who are put on the new immunotherapy checkpoint inhibitors against cancer such as Keytruda or Opdivo may experience an overactive immune system. That can result in skin rash and itching, severe diarrhea and colitis, hepatitis, pneumonitis, adrenal insufficiency, eye inflammation and neurotoxicity. High doses of corticosteroids may be required. Even then, people must be warned about complications.

Ely describes what happened after a moderate dose of prednisone:

“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.”

Bob describes what it’s like to be sleepless on steroids:

“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.”

S.K.F. describes prednisone withdrawal:

“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.

Just the Tip of the Corticosteroid Iceberg:

These are just a few of the messages that have been posted to our website. At last count there were over 800 comments in the feedback section of this post. 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 again, never stop a corticosteroid suddenly!

Revised: 2/16/17

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  1. Linda
    Reply

    If I just start out with taking 4 a day of the 10 mg for 4 days than Go down to 3 for 3 days and on. Do you think that will be enough to clear my lungs of infection. I have not took this for many years and the side effects I pray I don’t get. I’m supposed to take 5 for 5 days on down. I just want to get healed with out the side effects of this drug. I might to post this in the other post. Or if I take 3aday and go down till I’m off you think its strong enough to work. Just wanted to see what y’all thought of this. This CPap has messed up my breathing after I take it off of a morning it’s like I can’t breathe good all that air blowing in my lungs I think has made me not want to breathe on my on. Need help on how I should take this drug and still get healed and no side effects. My heart has been beating fast, breathing really slow for about 3 days now legs has been so weak and like I had that restless leg se dome that way I took the prednisone last night. My heart slow down now legs feel better and only took 1 pill. But my lungs feel raw now and my throat.

  2. Linda
    North Carolina
    Reply

    I just took my first pill 10 mg. I pray to the Lord I don’t have any side effects. I’m so afraid I will. Does anyone know what I should eat and what Vitms I should take with the prednisone? Lung infection from the CPap machine. I’m suppose to take 5 a day for 4 day than 3 for 3 than 2 for 2 til I’m though with them. I take Probiotics I hope that will help. Anyone thoughts appreciate. I haven’t taking this drug in years.

  3. Kim
    Reply

    I was given 20 mg of prednisone twice daily for an upper respiratory infection, and told i was good to go back to work. I work at a preschool. Three days after starting the prednisone i became increasingly agitated and easily angered or irritated. I ended up getting a write-up because I yelled at one of my children, which I don’t even remember doing. I rarely raise my voice. The only times i have become that irritable has been while I’m on prednisone.

    On top of that, both times that I got off the prednisone my entire body hurt. My skin felt bruised all over, even getting dressed hurt. This made my job even more difficult – work sith a class of 2.5 year olds and 3 year olds and it physically hurts for them to put a finger on you – makes it very difficult to interact with them the way you need to.

  4. Mary
    New Jersey
    Reply

    Have been prescribed prednisone on two occasions for my Rheumatoid Arthritis. First, along with other R. A drugs (one at a time over a period of months), Consequently I had to be hospitalized experiencing vomiting, changes in my eating habits/overeating, changes in bowel movements, indigestion and acid reflux (was being treated with Prilosec for reflux previous to this time).

    Most recently tried low dose of Prednisone (5mg daily). Stopped after 2 1/2 weeks due to side effects even at this dose (especially bloating and overeating). In last few days I have experienced back pain, fatigue, mild headache and some confusion/lack of concentration. Don’t know what I can take for my R.A. but don’t think prednisone is the answer.

    • Mary
      Reply

      Neglected to mention in my post that during my hospital stay in August, 2016 I was found to have a hiatal hernia, gastritis, distended gall bladder.

  5. Richard
    Ohio
    Reply

    I took prednisone for gout arthritis they weren’t really sure but man did it help I feel great but I made some very poor decisions I bought a car and that’s something I would never have done

  6. Pam
    Oklahoma
    Reply

    My experience with prednisone was a nightmare of bitterness, shaking, but worst of all was the anxiety and feeling I was “losing my mind”. I NEVER WANT PREDNISONE AGAIN. I took Benadryl to relax & ride out the horrible adverse reaction to prednisone 80 mg before an angioplasty, several days later, felt NORMAL AGAIN.

  7. Lois
    Reply

    I had a chemical face peel TCA. I was prescribed prednisone to keep down any swelling. oral tablets, 4 on day one, 6 on day two, 3 on day three, and 2 on day four- I am wondering if anyone else has been put on a similar schedule… or how necessary it really is to take the stuff.

  8. A.
    Australia
    Reply

    I’m currently on 50mg a day. I had severe pericarditis that also developed into adult onset still’s disease. I’ve been taking it for less than a week now. The first few days taking it, I was in the hospital so I was pretty heavily medicated. I’m not one to overthink things and I consider myself a pretty go with the flow type of guy but it felt like that night I had a tough time sleeping even with the Endone, Fentanyl patches, Aspirin and some random sleeping pill. The anxiety and sadness was nothing like I was experiencing before the switch from Colchicine to Prednazone.

    It’s now my 4th day on this medication alongside several others. I haven’t had a blink of sleep in the past 2 days. The anxiety has been unbearable and the moodswings are worrisome. I was told not to Google Prednazone and now I see why. Curiosity got the best of me this morning and I see why the Rheumatologist told me to avoid it.

    To be honest, in the situation I was in. My inflammation was stupidly high and this drug 100% reduced it overnight. It was becoming problematic, in that regard the drug is fantastic but it has to be prescribed with due diligence and transparency between the doctor and patient so there can be mental preparation. Going in blind isn’t safe especially if you’re not strong minded.

  9. WALTER C
    PORTLAND, OREGON
    Reply

    Three years ago I developed aspergillosis of the lungs. The pulmonologist prescribed a short course of prednisone without any mention of side effects, which I quickly developed. When I called his office they told me to call my primary care physician. My primary care referred me back to the pulmonologist. Getting nowhere I stopped taking it. In February of this year the aspergillosis returned with symptoms that had me worried I was having a heart attack. The emergency room and the pulmonologist put me on a more agressive tapered course of prednisone but didn’t talk about side effects. I quickly experienced dry mouth, frequent urination, blurry vision, dizzyness, constipation, and mouth sores. After 15 days of this I went back to emergency where they apologized for not telling me that the prednisone would raise my blood sugar, which was at 605 when they checked. They administered insulin and showed me how to use it for the rest of the prednisone course, which I hope will be less eventful.

  10. alex
    uk
    Reply

    I have just been given a 7-day treatment at 30mg a day as one dose but no tapering off at the end. I know it’s a short period but I am already getting dizzy spells and moments of road rage on day 2. I’m worried about 5 days’ time and what state I will be in then. Reading some of comments on your experiences of this drug, I wonder why is nothing is explained when first prescribed. I already have mental health issues. Let’s just hope that I don’t go “postal” on the people I love.

  11. Lori
    Midland, MI
    Reply

    I took 10 mg of prednisone for 4 days for a severe asthma attack from the flu that didn’t get better with Breo and ProAir. I knew shots in my joints would make me flushed and give me a headache for several days, but nothing I couldn’t handle.

    These pills gave me a horrific 24/7 headache that were worse than my migraines. Benadryl helped bring it down the pain level from an 11 to an 8, but the relief only lasted 2 hours. I had terrible insomnia. I felt like I was going to pass away any minute. The doctor stopped the medicine abruptly, as it was a low dose. So far it has been 6 days since I took the medicine. I see shadows; I can’t see through one eye; my headache is at a level 5; my stomach is a mess; it hurts to eat anything; it feels if my sodium and potassium are low, as I crave salt, and I hate salt. I can’t stand up straight, because my stomach hurts, and I did take every pill after a meal. I drove 1/4 mile yesterday to the store for food for the first time in 2 weeks and I was afraid. I probably shouldn’t have driven.

    When will it go away?? This is just from 4, 10 mg pills. My peak air flow did get up to 90% which is good. Was it worth it? Heck no. I put in my chart at the pharmacy to never ever give me prednisone ever, ever, again. The illness is much better than the treatment.

  12. Robert
    Illinois
    Reply

    Been on 40mg, then 30mg, dialing back the dosage every 4 weeks for an incurable lung disease. Got to admit, this stuff makes me feel unbelievable. A) I can breathe B) my entire attitude toward everything is 100% positive and very focused. No idea how long this will last but right now, its changed my life for the better.

  13. Regina
    waterloo
    Reply

    I was terrified of taking prednisone because of all the side effects I’d heard of but my doctor prescribed it for nasal polyps and I preferred that option over surgery. I took 30 mg for 10 days then 5 mg for about 2 weeks. I have NEVER felt better in my entire life – I was happy, focused, productive, nothing upset me , I was able to work from the time I got up until I went to bed . I didn’t have any more or less trouble sleeping. Everyone is different. I wish I could stay on it – I will miss it , it made me feel like I have always wanted to feel and I got so much done it was unbelievable AND it helped my polyps as well …

  14. Mike
    San Antonio
    Reply

    I went into Doc in Box for cold/flu symptoms I could not shake. Was taking MetamucilDM and Zicam. Said continue to take. Prescribed ZPak and gave me a steriod shot in office to help the extreme conjestion. It worked. Also prescription for 5 days @50mg of Prednisone. The second/third day I started to feel the affects but continued to take as prescribed. Even after being off the short time, I still feeling the affects. I had a real anxiety attack, thought I was dying, and could not make the commute home yesterday. Its being attributed to coming off the Prednisone that wasnt tapered off. Other factors played into it, not enough water, hot day…. important to continue to drink fluids when/if you come off of it. Never expected withdrawals after a week of being off it in a short time period. Today, still trying to focus knowing I am not this person typing…

  15. donnie
    minnesota
    Reply

    I was given 5 days of 20 mg per day for what they expected was a sinus infection. I ended up having to go back to the doctor because headaches never went away and she gave me a tapered does three days later of 10-10-10 and 5-5. Although I’m pretty sure it ended up being tmj/tmd instead and I didn’t even have a sinus infection in the first place! I still had headaches while going through it so I went to ER like 3 times to try and figure out why I was having such crazy heart pounding feeling and upset stomach. I was also on antibiotics during this time, amoxicillin, for 9-10 days. I felt like no one cared about my symptoms although it took about a week after stopping the pill before my heart calmed, down but my mental state is not nearly back to normal after such a traumatizing experience even after 9 days. I’m jus going to take it one day at a time and hopefully in a few weeks my mental state will be better.

  16. Brad
    Huntington, WV
    Reply

    I just started this drug two days ago for my gout. It took my gout away in one day, which was amazing. However, I’m experiencing weird thoughts, shadows in my peripheral vision, and constant chills. My blood pressure feels extremely high but when I check it it’s normal. Upon looking into side effects, I found that a lot of people call this drug a “Deal with the Devil” Beginning to wonder.

  17. Frank . C .
    Vancouver , Canada
    Reply

    Must say prednisone worked well for controlling my crohn’s flare at first but as the dose was slowly reduced experienced some rather concerning side affects . First was moodiness . Then bouts of anger . The worst was the extreme anxiety . At one point I didn’t leave the house for five days . Once I got down to 5mg started to get short of breath . After about twenty steps would start gasping for air like a ” fish out of water “. Very scary . Once I stopped taking it took about a week to get back to normal . Dose was 40mg the first week and then 5mg less every week after until I reached 20 mg . Then less 2.5 mg a week until finished . I will never use a steroid again ……….. . Now on Humira for a couple months . So far no side affects and working well . Time will tell I suppose .

  18. Lynn
    Arlington, texas
    Reply

    I am so thankful I read this. I feel like I’m losing my mind. Started Prednisone 4 days ago. Im normally calm and easy going. Today I almost got into a fight with a guy at my son’s day care for parking to close. I can’t put two logical thought together, having vision problems and will swear to you I am going to be the next America’s Got Talent Conga player. My heart is beating out of my chest and I can barely focus on driving. But I can breath freely and my sinus condition is clearing up. Today was my last dose. So I’m reading my Bible and asking God to forgive me for dancing with the Devil. Can’t wait to get my personality back in check.

  19. D
    Indiana
    Reply

    Knock on wood! My experience with prednisone has been positive. After sarcoidosis being discovered it makes me feel normal & energetic . I only do 10mg 3 times daily currently. Thanks for this article though, you can never have to much information. I will keep this in mind as this treatment proceeds.

    • Zuko
      South Africa
      Reply

      Its really dancing with the devil. Im currently in hospital getting a steroid drip that i begged my stubborn doctor not to give me due to severe side effects I’ve experienced with pills but hey i cant know much than a doctor.after this drip the devil is not going to nail me down again.this medication makes me more sick than iam

      • Christine S.
        Reply

        Thanks to your comments, I realize that my bipolar stuff isn’t getting worse. My arthritis pain is gone but felt as if my mind was too. Had flu-like symptoms, gastro-intestional distress, brain fog, flushed face, heart palpitations, and was extremely hot and sweaty. I realize now what’s happening. I’ll just take one per day, see how that goes. Thanks again.

  20. Bobby
    Van Nuys, CA, 91406
    Reply

    In September of 2015, I came down with Minimal Change Disease (MCD), kidney failure. Prednisone is one of only three meds known to be effective on MCD. The other two are cancer drugs and I want to avoid that stuff forever. I’ve been on this stuff since then and I have noticed some disturbing side effects.

    Roidrage, trouble thinking, torn tendons in my hand. I’ve been on this stuff for a year and a half and when I try to taper off my kidneys go south on me again. Starting dose was 60 mg per day for about a month, then down in increments of 10 every month. After 20 I went to increments of 5 mg per day. After 10 I’m now down to 7.5 per day. I sure do hope I’m not steroid dependent.

  21. Deloris
    Reply

    I take 7.5 mg prednisone per day for my rheumatoid arthritis. This keeps the pain manageable. I do much better with 20 mg or more, but I recognize the drawbacks. My rheumatologist is working to find a different, effective drug or biologic that will help me get off the prednisone for good.

  22. ANN
    31522
    Reply

    Prednison: concoction of the devil himself. Why haven’t the medical geniuses corrected that insanity by now, since it’s been marketed for 50 years at least!!

    Started out at twenty milligrams for one week, tapering to 15 second week, down to ten and finally to five milligrams which I have been on now for several years, can’t remember exactly but four or five, and hate that devil’s concoction. After a year or less on five mg, I had compression fractures of L-1, L-2, L-3, L-4 according to MRI/neurosurgeon diagnosis at Mayo. The back brace I had to wear for months on end was a trip, too! Awful!

    BE AWARE: Prednisone sucks the calcium from your bones like crazy!! Horrible, unimaginable, unending pain, worse than childbirth because that’s over in a short time. Further, because of autoimmune hepatitis for which the prednison was prescribed, I did not dare take pharmaceutical pain killers.

    Pharmaceuticals are a money mill for the drug companies and investors. That’s it! Thankfully, there is a wonderful acupuncture doctor who is also a Master Herbalist close by and he, the Good Lord and herbal pain management got me through that horrible year of my life. Of course, my back is misaligned and will never be straight again but thankfully, the pain is gone!!

    I’ve read that females primarily are victims of autoimmune conditions and that, to a large degree, the reason there’s no urgency in the medical community to get control of and find a solution, or better treatment for this horrible autoimmune condition for which steroids are prescribed. Prednisone is the devil’s work and the genius research community doesn’t improve on it. I long for the day that I can stop taking it!!!! And getting myself gluten-free which was not a doc’s idea but mine, has helped tremendously.

  23. Dave
    Kentucky
    Reply

    Well, I received great benefits from Prednisone. I had severe rash, hives and itching all over my body. I had my wife to scratch my back and arms all the time because of the itch. My doctor prescribed Prednisone for me and I took it as the prescription advised and in a few days, it went away and haven’t had it since. NO side effects at all. I feel great!

    • Claudia Del rosario
      Florida
      Reply

      I have a really bad rush, and itching in my arms and face. Went to the ER, and they just prescribed me to take Prednisone 60 mg for 5 days….please can you tell me if there are any side effects? And if this will help…thanks

  24. Trish
    Reply

    I was hospitalized for a bleeding disorder, severely depleted of blood platelets. I was given IV prednisone in addition to platelets. After being released from the hospital, I was given 60 mgs. a day of Prednisone. My heart rate kept getting faster, I could never sleep. My face was getting swollen to the point that I couldn’t close my mouth. After 3 months of Prednisone, I demanded that I be taken off the medication. The physician who treated me found my bleeding problem was due to a stomach ulcer, therefore treatable by antibiotics. That was 4 years ago. I now have permanent atrial fibrillation, I had to have cataract surgery, my hearing is damaged, and I’ve had some bone loss. Now the medications I take for the heart problem are equally frightening. I still suffer from severe fatigue. If someone had given me information about the side effects of Prednisone when I was initially hospitalized, I’d have chosen not to be treated.

  25. Monica
    PA
    Reply

    I am a Registered Nurse and 20 years ago I hurt my back lifting a patient at work. The MRI revealed 2 herniated discs. I had steroid injections and 3-4 days later I had a very swollen face and body, very short of breath, I felt like a rag doll. I could hear wheezing and rales on my chest without a stethoscope. My family Doctor had to give me massive doses of Lasix to get rid of the fluid. We both thought this was a fluke. Every time I had a steroid injection, this happened. It is now classified as an allergy. Every back Doctor I go to states “he never heard of this” and “I must be wrong” I had to go to my family Doctor and he wrote a letter stating this is true. Have you ever heard of this???? It seems so bizzare

  26. Roger
    Maryland
    Reply

    Take10mg a day for eye. Worth all the side effects!! I have none. Will take rest of my life

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