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Written by C. Fookes, BPharm on Aug 15, 2018.

What are Glucocorticoids?

Glucocorticoids are a type of corticosteroid hormone that is very effective at reducing inflammation and suppressing the immune system. Inflammation is the way our immune system responds to harmful substances and trauma and is part of our healing process. However, if the usual control mechanisms that turn the process of inflammation off aren’t functioning properly and it continues unabated, our tissues can become damaged. Continued inflammation is associated with many chronic conditions including betamethasone Celestone Soluspan budesonide Entocort EC, Uceris dexamethasone DexPak 10 day hydrocortisone rectal Anucort HC methylprednisolone Medrol Dose-Pack prednisone Sterapred prednisolone Millipred triamcinolone Kenalog-40

Are glucocorticoids considered safe?

When given at recommended dosages for short durations of time, glucocorticoids are considered safe. One-off doses of glucocorticoids, even if they are large, or short-course therapies of less than one-week have few harmful effects. However, more regular or extended dosing has been associated with a number of severe side effects.

If glucocorticoids are given on a daily basis (at a dose equivalent to prednisone 15mg/day for more than three weeks), the adrenal glands stop producing glucocorticoids and tissue in the adrenal cortex begins to atrophy (die off). This is of concern if the glucocorticoid is suddenly stopped because the adrenal tissues will not immediately begin producing glucocorticoids again. This is called acute adrenal insufficiency and symptoms include irritability, nausea, joint pains, dizziness and low blood pressure. To avoid this happening, steroid medication should be withdrawn slowly, over several weeks or months, to allow the adrenal cortex to resume its full functioning capacity again.

For people who are taking glucocorticoids long-term, extra doses of glucocorticoids should be given during times of acute stress, such as severe infection or surgery, to mimic the cortisol surge that is normally produced by the body during particularly stressful events, otherwise healing may be delayed or incomplete.

Evening dosages of glucocorticoids should be discouraged as they can cause insomnia. Instead, glucocorticoids are normally taken just once a day, or if taken twice a day, they should be dosed in the morning and again at noon.

Because glucocorticoids suppress the immune system, they increase the risk of infection. Certain viral infections, such as chickenpox or measles may have a more severe course in people taking glucocorticoids.

Long-term use of glucocorticoids can also cause Cushing’s syndrome. Symptoms include a fatty hump between the shoulders, a round face, weight gain, irregular menstrual cycles, fatigue, and depression.

For a complete list of severe side effects, please refer to the individual drug monographs.

What are the side effects of glucocorticoids?

Glucocorticoids have been associated with a number of side effects including:

For a complete list of side effects, please refer to the individual drug monographs.

List of Glucocorticoids:

View by  Brand | Generic
Drug Name Avg. Rating Reviews
dexamethasone systemic (Pro)
111 reviews
hydrocortisone systemic (Pro)
21 reviews
For ratings, users were asked how effective they found the medicine while considering positive/adverse effects and ease of use (1 = not effective, 10 = most effective).

See Also

Medical conditions associated with glucocorticoids:

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.