Prednisone is a medication that is prescribed for a variety of conditions. There are serious side effects, however, and it should be used with caution.
What is Prednisone?
One of the corticosteroid drugs prescribed by medical doctors for inflammatory diseases and allergic reactions is prednisone. It works by suppressing the immune system, but it can increase the risk of infections. This drug may be medically indicated for rheumatic disorders, allergies, asthma, COPD, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and other diseases. Sometimes, it is prescribed for migraines, or even tumors.1
The Side-Effects of Prednisone
In the short term, prednisone can increase glucose levels, and cause insomnia and mania, depression, and anxiety. Over the long haul, the medication can lead to Cushing’s syndrome, weight gain, osteoporosis, cataracts and glaucoma, and diabetes. Minor side effects can include acne, rash, diarrhea, leg pain, and nervousness, among others. There are also serious side effects. Patients may have trouble controlling emotion or trains of thought, their immune system can be suppressed, there can be severe facial swelling, and other problems and infections can occur. If a patient becomes dependent upon the medicine, they can have adrenal suppression, leading the body to become unable to produce cortisol. This medication requires medical monitoring, and there is a special weaning process for patients who no longer need or wish to take the medication. Depending on the amount of time the patient used the drug, the weaning process can take days or months. “Abrupt withdrawal may lead to an Addison crisis”; therefore some patients need to take prednisone only every other day, if they are using the medication chronically.2
Herbal Alternatives to Prednisone
Because of the side-effects of the medication, some patients may look to alternatives to prednisone. Patients may find some of the effects of the medication particularly bothersome, such as thinning skin, ease of bruising, sexual dysfunction, and extra body fat (including in the face). Other problems that make patients want to avoid drug include altered moods, insomnia, acne, slow wound healing, headaches, nausea, hypertension, and fluid retention. Some studies in China and at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York have shown there may be herbal alternatives to prednisone and steroids for patients with asthma. Lig-Zhi, Ku-Shen, and Gan-Cao can be “combined to offer the same positive effects of prednisone without the same negative side effects”. For patients with pain, Dong Quai can be an alternative herb, as it is anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and it boosts the immune system. Dong Quai may be helpful for patients with headaches, arthritis, and abdominal pain.3 While corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are very powerful and effective, the long-term side effects should be seriously considered. The side-effects may be too troublesome. Patients should also remember that they cannot abruptly stop taking prednisone.4 Stopping the medication too quickly can lead to a host of other issues, including an adrenal crisis, with nausea, fatigue, fever, and low blood pressure.5 Therefore, it is important to remember that it can be a serious decision to take—or stop taking—prednisone.
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