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What are oral corticosteroids?

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Oral corticosteroids are steroid medicines in pill or liquid form that treat inflammation, swelling, itching or allergic reactions in the body, explains Mayo Clinic. Doctors commonly prescribe them for treatment of severe allergies, arthritis, asthma and, in some cases, Bell's palsy or croup in children. Some side effects of oral corticosteroid use include sodium and water retention, high blood pressure, glaucoma or cataracts, puffiness of the face and loss of diabetes control, according to MedicineNet.

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Long-term use of corticosteroids may cause obesity, psychiatric problems or convulsions, warns MedicineNet. Because they suppress the immune system, these drugs may increase the rate of infections and make vaccines and antibiotics less effective. Other side effects of long-term corticosteroid use are osteoporosis, shrinking of the adrenal glands and adrenal necrosis in the joints of the hips. There are numerous other medicines that cause discomfort or even dangerous interactions in patients taking corticosteroids.

The patient must take the medicine as prescribed and not stop taking it suddenly, warns MedicineNet. Due to the adrenal gland shrinkage that accompanies long-term use, the body cannot secrete cortisol quickly enough to replace what it was receiving from corticosteroid medicine. Failure to taper off carefully can lead to adrenal crisis, causing nausea, vomiting or shock.

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