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Prednisone is a synthetic corticosteroid used to treat certain conditions such as severe allergic reactions, chronic inflammatory conditions (such as irritable bowel syndrome), autoimmune disorders (such as lupus), and many others. It may be used to replace the natural cortisone (steroid) hormone produced by the adrenal glands in conditions characterized by low steroid levels. Prednisone may be given in small or large doses and may be prescribed for short or long term therapy.

Corticosteroids are natural hormones produced by the adrenal glands. Its normal production is controlled, however, by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in the brain, which consists of a feedback mechanism. This mechanism may be inhibited by prolonged treatment with synthetic steroids such as Prednisone, causing the adrenals to stop producing its natural hormones. Sudden withdrawal of treatment does not give time for the feedback mechanism to return to normal function and may cause serious, life-threatening effects.

Using Prednisone

Short courses of low-dose Prednisone treatment may be used to treat asthma or acute allergic reactions. Side effects are not common and treatment may be stopped without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. More often, however, Prednisone is used to control, rather than cure a chronic condition. It must be used exactly as directed to prevent possible side effects. Doctors may adjust dosages of Prednisone from time to time and monitor its effects on you. It is also advisable to inform your doctor if you are taking other drugs or supplements while on treatment because of possible drug interactions that may cause side effects.

Treatment with Prednisone often helps control symptoms and make patients feel better but continuous, long-term intake of steroids may have side effects such as acne, heartburn, increased appetite, weight gain, headaches, dizziness, weakness, mood changes, increased hair growth, and more.

Patients should not suddenly stop taking Prednisone just because they feel better or because they are concerned with the side effects.

Consult your doctor about these side effects for possible adjustment of doses.

Prednisone Withdrawal Symptoms

Doctors often prescribe Prednisone for the shortest possible time. Its use is not discontinued abruptly, but gradually, over weeks or months, to allow the body to get used to the changes. Once you begin decreasing the dose in increments, withdrawal symptoms may occur. These include:

  • Weakness or fatigue

  • Decrease in appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Abdominal pain

  • Low blood pressure

  • Dizziness or fainting

  • Low blood sugar levels

  • Menstrual changes

  • Joint pains and muscle aches

  • Mental changes

  • Fever

  • Decreased gastrointestinal contractions, leading to bloating and constipation

The time it takes to gradually reduce (taper off) and discontinue Prednisone depends on the condition being treated, the dose, duration of treatment, and other factors. This may take a week or up to several months. Follow the doctor's instructions carefully. If you experience withdrawal symptoms as you taper off the drug, call your doctor. Should you miss a dose, ask your doctor how much to take and avoid doubling the next dose unless instructed to do so. It is usually best to write down the doctor's instructions to avoid any mistakes in taking medications.

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