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Is prednisone a steroid drug?

Medically reviewed by Sally Chao, MD. Last updated on Aug 22, 2023.

Official answer


Prednisone is an FDA approved drug that is part of a medication class called corticosteroids, a grouping of steroid hormones. It is a synthetic glucocorticoid (cortisone-like drug) that works systemically, meaning it works all over your body. It mimics a steroid that your body already produces.

Prednisone can treat low levels of corticosteroids by replacing the naturally produced steroid. It can also treat other diseases by decreasing inflammation from inhibiting multiple substances in the chemical pathway of inflammation. It can also alter your body’s immune response by suppressing your immune system.

Prednisone is available as prescription-only oral tablets or oral solutions. Available brand names in the United States include Rayos or Sterapred. The initial dosage ranges from 5 mg to 60 mg per day, depending on the condition being treated and your response to the medication.

Prednisone can be used to manage a broad range of diseases, including those affecting your:

  • Skin
  • Metabolic system
  • Gut
  • Blood
  • Nervous system
  • Eyes
  • Lungs
  • Kidneys

It is also used in treating autoimmune diseases, certain infectious diseases, severe allergies, some cancers and organ transplants.

Prednisone is absorbed in your gut. Therefore, it is best to take prednisone with food or milk to decrease stomach upset. When taking large doses, antacids may be recommended in between meals to help prevent peptic ulcers.

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Possible adverse effects of prednisone

Short-term side effects of prednisone may include:

  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Fluid retention
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Indigestion
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Increase in blood glucose

Adverse effects are more common in higher doses or with long-term use.

Long-term effects may include:

  • Mental changes
  • Acne
  • Facial hair in women
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Growth retardation in children
  • Thin arms and legs
  • Pink-purple stretch marks
  • Cataracts
  • Abnormal fat deposits
  • Increased risk of infections and fractures

Extended use may eventually increase the risk for developing diabetes, hypertension, glaucoma, psychiatric conditions and osteoporosis.

  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus. Prednisone. March 15, 2020. Available at: [Accessed August 9, 2021].
  2. Puckett Y, Gabbar A, Bokhari AA. Prednisone. Apr 19, 2021. StatPearls.
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Rayos (prednisone) delayed-release tablets. July 2012. Available at: [Accessed August 9, 2021].
  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine DailyMed. Prednisone tablet. June 1, 2020. Available at: [Accessed August 9, 2021].

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