What Are the Side Effects of Corticosteroids?

Oral corticosteroid medications may cause side effects such as increased blood pressure, fluid retention, weight gain, mood swings and glaucoma, according to Mayo Clinic. Inhaled corticosteroids may lead to oral thrush or a hoarse voice, and topical corticosteroids may cause thin, red skin or acne lesions.

Patients can reduce their risk of side effects by taking lower doses of corticosteroids, or by taking them every other day instead of daily, advises Mayo Clinic. These changes should be discussed with a doctor. When taking corticosteroid medications for an extended period of time, patients are advised to reduce their calorie intake and get plenty of exercise to help avoid weight gain. Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements is also recommended, as this helps reduce the bone thinning that sometimes occurs due to long-term use of corticosteroids.

Corticosteroid medications mimic the effects of the hormones that the adrenal glands on top of the kidneys produce, explains Mayo Clinic. They help suppress inflammation and the immune system, making them useful for treating conditions related to swelling and autoimmune disorders. Oral corticosteroid medications are often prescribed to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, while inhaled preparations of these drugs may be prescribed for asthma. Topical creams containing corticosteroids may be used to heal skin conditions, and injections of these drugs are useful to reducing the pain and inflammation of tendinitis.