Corticosteroids such as methylprednisolone or prednisone are powerful anti-inflammatory medications. Doctors frequently prescribe these medications for bronchitis, sinusitis, asthma, allergic reactions and backache. They may also treat a bad case of poison ivy or a flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis with short-term steroid use.
Are There Risks from Short-Term Steroid Use?
Most doctors are well aware of the dangers of long-term oral steroids. These drugs can increase the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoporosis. People taking such medications for months or years are more vulnerable to infections and dangerous blood clots. Some patients may develop psychological reactions.
Many prescribers assume that short-term steroid use carries minimal risk. A new study utilizing insurance information on 1.5 million adults found some unexpected complications of oral steroids taken for less than a month. Often, when these drugs are prescribed for a short period of time, patients start with a high dose and taper down over several days or a few weeks. People who were taking inhaled steroids for asthma, COPD or allergies were not included in the data analysis for this study.
The Hazards of Short-Term Steroids:
People who took these medications even short term were more likely to break a bone, develop a blood clot or come down with a serious infection (sepsis). These risks started immediately and lasted for at least three months. Such data suggest that everyone should become aware of the potential side effects of medications like prednisone.
Waljee et al, BMJ, April 12, 2017