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Prednisone 5 mg Tablets: What Side Effects? What is 5 mg Used For?

Prednisone 5 mg Tablets: What Side Effects? What is 5 mg Used For?

Your doctor prescribed prednisone 5 milligrams, you might want to know what is it used for? What should you look out for? What side effects can you expect?

Is it okay to take prednisone 5 mg forever?

You might wonder if you’re getting the benefits from taking 5 mg of prednisone and whether it’s safe or okay to continue taking it.

If you’re able to walk again, cook your own meals, play with your kids, or breathe, the benefits of taking prednisone 5 mg tablets can be miraculous.

But you can’t really make the decision of whether you can take prednisone 5mg tablets long-term unless you know the risks.

That’s why I created this video and article to help you understand the prednisone 5 mg side effects.

Once you know these adverse effects of prednisone 5mg, then you can decide whether the benefits truly outweigh the risks for you.

Watch now!

Prednisone 5mg Tablets: What Side Effects? What is 5mg Used For?

What is Prednisone?

Prednisone is a corticosteroid anti-inflammatory and it can be used to help out with conditions ranging from asthma and COPD to autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus to allergic reactions or kidney transplants. It can be used for so many different things.

How does 5 milligrams dosage of prednisone compare?

Prednisone 5 milligrams is considered to be a low dosage and it is the third most commonly dispensed strength of prednisone with 10 milligrams being the first most commonly prescribed 20 milligrams being the second, and 5 milligrams being the third most commonly prescribed type of prednisone. Coming in at 27.9% of the time. 

It’s pretty common, millions of people across America take it every year and it is considered to be a low dose, 20 milligrams and above is high, and somewhere in between is medium. 

What would somebody take prednisone 5 milligrams for? And how long would somebody take this?

You could take this anywhere from 5 days to 5 months to 5 years. It depends on what your doctor prescribed it for. This dose is approximately twice as strong as the naturally occurring hormone in our body called cortisol.

Cortisol is released by a special system called the HPA Axis, your adrenal stress system. Cortisol is what saves us in fight or flight times, times of famine or war. This is approximately double what our body would naturally be secreting. Our body naturally secretes somewhere around 2 ½ milligrams equivalent of prednisone per day. This is basically twice that and therefore it’s doubling the amount of a hormone in our body and that causes side effects.

Which side effects might you experience at 5 milligrams?

What side effects could you expect at prednisone 5 milligrams? Tweight: 400;”>he good news is that you’re probably going to expect fewer side effects at 5 milligrams than say if you were to take prednisone 20 milligrams because the higher the dose, the worse the side effects.

I personally had to take prednisone anywhere from 5 all the way up to the equivalent of 220 milligrams of prednisone.

I’ve experienced the full range and these are all the side effects I experienced;

Dr. Megan's prednisone side effects

But you don’t necessarily experience all of those at 5 milligrams. So which ones you could experience include;

1. Cushing’s syndrome

Moon Face; A combination of moon face and a really strange weight. Weight and fat redistribution of your body where the fat goes to your face, belly, and perhaps at the back of your neck. It’s a lot less likely at the dose of 5 milligrams, but it is possible. 

According to a study;

Weight gain at doses greater than 5 mg/day. 779 patients with RA, weight gain was more frequent in patients treated with at least 5 mg/day of prednisone or equivalent for at least six months, compared with those who had not received any for at least 12 months (22.4 versus 9.5 percent). 

However, there was a threshold effect, such that the rate of weight gain was not increased in those who took less than 5 mg/day (8.7 percent) or further increased at doses greater than 7.5 mg/day (21.3 percent). 15.8% Cushingoid features.

It’s not something that happens instantly when you’re at 5 milligrams. It’s kind of a longer-term thing compared with those who had not received any.

Another study said; 

In an analysis of four prospective trials of glucocorticoids in RA, the use of 5 to 10 mg/day of prednisone or equivalent over two years was associated with an increase of mean body weight of 4 to 8%.

So if you were a hundred pounds before you took prednisone, you might be 104 to 108 pounds after a year of taking prednisone 5 milligrams. Alright? So that was the first type of side effect Cushing syndrome with moon face or weight gain

2. Cataracts

The second type of side effect that is possible is called cataracts, which is when your eye lens gets cloudy. Normally you would expect that to happen in high doses, but it can happen even it says when the prednisone dose is less than 5 milligrams a day. 

It’s definitely possible, but it’s not likely to happen quickly. That’s kind of a side effect that happens slowly over time. If you’re on prednisone 5 milligrams for a long time, then cataracts are a possibility. 

3. Heart Disease

What about heart failure and heart disease? Yes. Heart disease is possible even at 5 milligrams of prednisone. Greater than 7.5 mg/day in which there was an increased frequency of glaucoma, depression, and elevated blood pressure. CVD risk is dose-dependent and higher the higher the dose of prednisone you’re taking.

Another study did;

87,000 people in the United Kingdom and they had inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and PMR. These people had reported increased cardiovascular risks associated with long-term prednisone use at doses of less than 5 milligrams a day. So even doses less than 5 milligrams a day had an increased risk of heart disease. For heart attacks or myocardial infarctions, the risk increased by 13% for each 5 milligram a day increase in glucocorticoid dose.

4. Mood Changes or Mood Swings

What about mood changes or mood swings? They said that;

The prevalence of depression is greater in patients on more LA longstanding therapy, even on low to moderate doses. Depression isn’t likely after just one dose. It’s more of a long-term thing, but it can happen even at low doses. 

This study is from UpToDate online and is the most premier medical reference, they are basing all their information on scientific studies. 

5. Infection Risks

The fifth side effect you might expect at 5 milligrams of prednisone includes infection risk. Prednisone is an immunosuppressant, it is turning down your immune system, and the higher the dose, the more immune system suppression there is. 

In a large observational study with patients with RA, doses as low as 5 mg or less of prednisone were associated with a small but clinically significant risk of infection. You’re not going to suddenly drop dead of an infection, but it is increasing your risk compared to people who don’t have to take prednisone. 

6. Memory Impairment

Patients treated with doses of 5 to 40 milligrams a day for at least a year had a partial loss of explicit memory. Older patients were more susceptible to memory impairment with less protected treatment. 

Anywhere between 5 to 40 milligrams, you could have some dementia-like symptoms that even have something called steroid-induced dementia, which again is more likely the higher the dose but is possible at 5 milligrams of prednisone. 

But the good news is that there are also some data that have suggested that very low doses of glucocorticoids, which is prednisone less than 5 milligrams a day, are associated with fewer adverse effects.

What is the safe dose of Prednisone?

5 milligrams is a lot better than 10 milligrams, which is even better than 20 milligrams as far as decreasing your risk for side effects. But there is no safe dose of prednisone. One pill is enough to cause side effects. One 5 milligram pill can cause side effects.

There’s no perfectly safe amount of prednisone to take. But the important thing to talk about is that, do the benefits outweigh the risks for you? That’s really the only conversation you can have with your doctor because they understand what your risks are. 

But essentially what you need to know is, how much is the prednisone actually helping you? Is it giving you the ability to get out of bed? Is it giving you the ability to play with your family? Are you able to actually go back to work because of prednisone? If so, that’s pretty awesome compared to these side effects which aren’t significant at 5 milligrams, but are possible. 

It’s really a decision you’re gonna have to make with your doctor whether it’s worth it for you to take Prednisone 5 milligrams. 

Is prednisone 5 milligrams very strong?

No, it’s not very strong. It’s a fairly low dose.

How long can you stay on 5 milligrams of prednisone?

Some people could start with just 5 days of 5 milligrams of prednisone, but some people are stuck on 5 milligrams of prednisone for life. Whether it’s for rheumatoid arthritis or a kidney transplant or some other long-term condition. There are people who have no other choice than to discontinue taking prednisone long-term.

The general recommendation when it comes to prednisone is to be on the lowest effective dose for the shortest period of time possible. You want to expose yourself to the least number of milligrams of prednisone that you possibly can. 

Steroid Taper Application

If you’re tapering off of 5 milligrams of prednisone, this is where things get really tricky and there’s no great or perfect answer that I can give you. Some people could go off of 5 milligrams by one milligram a week and be off of in 5 weeks, but you’re saying specifically for 5 months.

Generally, if you have 5 months to get off of 5 milligrams, that makes it pretty simple. Go off 1 milligram per month. This month you’re on 5 milligrams and in the next month you take 4 milligrams, the next month you take 3 milligrams, next month take 2 milligrams, and the last month 1 milligram. And then month 7 you’re at zero, or in month 6 you’re at zero milligrams. That would be if everything went well and simple and easy, but that doesn’t always happen.

Watch me walk through how to use this cool website for planning a prednisone taper, which even calculates your cumulative dose of prednisone. It’s especially good for people with PMR or GCA.

How can I decrease my risk for side effects?

What else can I personally do if I have to take Prednisone, is there anything I can do?

Yes, I created a Prednisone checklist that includes my top tips for people on prednisone, such as things that you can do to prevent ongoing side effects. Things you can do to deal with the side effects you currently have. You can download that by filling up the form below.

Free Prednisone Checklist

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Dr. Megan Milne, PharmD, BCACP

Dr. Megan Milne, PharmD, BCACP, is an award-winning clinical pharmacist board certified in the types of conditions people take prednisone for. Dr. Megan had to take prednisone herself for an autoimmune condition so understands what it feels like to suffer prednisone side effects and made it her mission to counteract them as the Prednisone Pharmacist.

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