Dexamethasone

Pronunciation

Generic Name: dexamethasone (oral) (dex a METH a sone)
Brand Names: Baycadron, Dexamethasone Intensol, DexPak 10 Day Taperpak, DexPak 13 DayTaperpak, DexPak 6 DayTaperpak, Dexpak Jr. Taperpak, Zema Pak 10-Day, Zema Pak 13-Day, Zema Pak 6-Day

What is dexamethasone?

Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid that prevents the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation.

Dexamethasone is used to treat many different inflammatory conditions such as allergic disorders, skin conditions, ulcerative colitis, arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, or breathing disorders.

Dexamethasone may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important information

You should not use this medication if you are allergic to dexamethasone, or if you have a fungal infection anywhere in your body.

Before taking dexamethasone, tell your doctor about all of your medical conditions, and about all other medicines you are using. There are many other diseases that can be affected by steroid use, and many other medicines that can interact with steroids.

Your dexamethasone dosage may change if you have any unusual stress such as a serious illness, fever or infection, or if you have surgery or a medical emergency. Tell your doctor about any such situation that affects you during treatment.

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Dexamethasone can weaken your immune system, making it easier for you to get an infection or worsening an infection you already have or have recently had. Tell your doctor about any illness or infection you have had within the past several weeks.

Avoid being near people who are sick or have infections. Call your doctor for preventive treatment if you are exposed to chicken pox or measles. These conditions can be serious or even fatal in people who are using steroid medication.

Do not receive a "live" vaccine while you are taking dexamethasone. Vaccines may not work as well while you are taking a steroid.

Do not stop using dexamethasone suddenly, or you could have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Talk to your doctor about how to avoid withdrawal symptoms when stopping the medication.

Wear a medical alert tag or carry an ID card stating that you take dexamethasone. Any medical care provider who treats you should know that you are using a steroid.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use this medication if you are allergic to dexamethasone, or if you have a fungal infection anywhere in your body.

Dexamethasone can weaken your immune system, making it easier for you to get an infection. Steroids can also worsen an infection you already have, or reactivate an infection you recently had. Before taking dexamethasone, tell your doctor about any illness or infection you have had within the past several weeks.

To make sure you can safely take dexamethasone, tell your doctor if you have any of these other conditions:

  • liver disease (such as cirrhosis);

  • kidney disease;

  • a thyroid disorder;

  • diabetes;

  • a history of malaria;

  • tuberculosis;

  • osteoporosis;

  • a muscle disorder such as myasthenia gravis;

  • glaucoma or cataracts;

  • herpes infection of the eyes;

  • stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, or diverticulitis;

  • depression or mental illness;

  • congestive heart failure; or

  • high blood pressure

FDA pregnancy category C. It is not known whether dexamethasone will harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using this medication.

See also: Pregnancy and breastfeeding warnings (in more detail)

Dexamethasone can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. Do not use this medication without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

Dexamethasone can affect growth in children. Talk with your doctor if you think your child is not growing at a normal rate while using this medication.

How should I take dexamethasone?

Take dexamethasone exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Do not take in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended. Follow the directions on your prescription label.

Your doctor may occasionally change your dose to make sure you get the best results.

Your steroid medication needs may change if you have unusual stress such as a serious illness, fever or infection, or if you have surgery or a medical emergency. Tell your doctor about any such situation that affects you.

This medication can cause unusual results with certain medical tests. Tell any doctor who treats you that you are using dexamethasone.

Do not stop using dexamethasone suddenly, or you could have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Talk to your doctor about how to avoid withdrawal symptoms when stopping the medication.

Wear a medical alert tag or carry an ID card stating that you take dexamethasone. Any medical care provider who treats you should know that you are using steroid medication.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss a dose of dexamethasone.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

Long-term use of high steroid doses can lead to symptoms such as thinning skin, easy bruising, changes in the shape or location of body fat (especially in your face, neck, back, and waist), increased acne or facial hair, menstrual problems, impotence, or loss of interest in sex.

What should I avoid?

Avoid being near people who are sick or have infections. Call your doctor for preventive treatment if you are exposed to chicken pox or measles. These conditions can be serious or even fatal in people who are using steroid medication such as dexamethasone.

Do not receive a "live" vaccine while using dexamethasone. The vaccine may not work as well during this time, and may not fully protect you from disease. Live vaccines include measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), oral polio, rotavirus, typhoid, varicella (chickenpox), H1N1 influenza, and nasal flu vaccine.

Avoid drinking alcohol while you are taking dexamethasone.

Dexamethasone side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction to dexamethasone: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

  • problems with your vision;

  • swelling, rapid weight gain, feeling short of breath;

  • severe depression, unusual thoughts or behavior, seizure (convulsions);

  • bloody or tarry stools, coughing up blood;

  • pancreatitis (severe pain in your upper stomach spreading to your back, nausea and vomiting, fast heart rate);

  • low potassium (confusion, uneven heart rate, extreme thirst, increased urination, leg discomfort, muscle weakness or limp feeling); or

  • dangerously high blood pressure (severe headache, blurred vision, buzzing in your ears, anxiety, confusion, chest pain, shortness of breath, uneven heartbeats, seizure).

Less serious dexamethasone side effects may include:

  • sleep problems (insomnia), mood changes;

  • acne, dry skin, thinning skin, bruising or discoloration;

  • slow wound healing;

  • increased sweating;

  • headache, dizziness, spinning sensation;

  • nausea, stomach pain, bloating;

  • muscle weakness; or

  • changes in the shape or location of body fat (especially in your arms, legs, face, neck, breasts, and waist).

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

See also: Side effects (in more detail)

What other drugs will affect dexamethasone?

Many drugs can interact with dexamethasone. Below is just a partial list. Tell your doctor if you are using:

  • aspirin (taken on a daily basis or at high doses);

  • a diuretic (water pill);

  • a blood thinner such as warfarin (Coumadin);

  • cyclosporine (Gengraf, Neoral, Sandimmune);

  • insulin or diabetes medications you take by mouth;

  • ketoconazole (Nizoral);

  • rifampin (Rifadin, Rifater, Rifamate, Rimactane); or

  • seizure medications such as phenytoin (Dilantin) or phenobarbital (Luminal, Solfoton).

This list is not complete and other drugs may interact with dexamethasone. Tell your doctor about all medications you use. This includes prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin, and herbal products. Do not start a new medication without telling your doctor.

Where can I get more information?

  • Your pharmacist can provide more information about dexamethasone.
  • Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use dexamethasone only for the indication prescribed.
  • Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. Multum's drug information is an informational resource designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects.

Copyright 1996-2014 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 6.01. Revision Date: 2010-12-30, 11:09:35 AM.

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