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Prednisone Side Effects Short-Term – Do They Exist?

Prednisone Side Effects Short-Term – Do They Exist?

Does Short-Term Prednisone Cause Side Effects?

Did your doctor tell you,

“I’m only prescribing prednisone short-term, so you won’t have any side effects”?

Is that really true? Find out the real answer in this video.

Watch now!

The most well-respected drug reference today, Clinical Pharmacology, states this about prednisone:

“Short-term administration of large doses typically does not cause adverse effects.”

English translation? Taking prednisone for a short amount of time doesn’t normally cause side effects.

I firmly disagree. 

What do you think?

What is Short-Term Prednisone?

According to some definitions, less than 21 days is short-term. Other research defines it as less than 30 days. Finally others define short-term prednisone as a prescription lasting less than 3 months.

Prednisone Side Effects Short-Term

Here are the short-term side effects of prednisone, starting from head to toe.

1. Brain

UpToDate said that you may feel “an improved sense of well-being within several days.”

According to Warrington and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic, at the beginning of taking prednisone, you might feel euphoria and hypomania. Judd and other researchers said at the beginning you are more likely to experience emotional lability or mania than depression.

Basically, these all mean you may feel extra energy and finally feel better from your condition for the first few days on prednisone.

Here are several levels of mood changes from mild to severe:

  • euphoria: feel an exceptionally good mood
  • emotional lability: emotional roller coaster from highs to lows
  • hypomania, activated states: feel so good, you almost feel crazy; may go without sleep or push yourself too far
  • anxiety: worried to the point it makes you feel unwell; may need medications to cope
  • mania: severe changes to your mood that may make you feel crazy; some need to be hospitalized at this point
  • steroid dementia: most severe, causing memory loss and inability to function normally

UpTodate states that at very high doses, 75-100 mg per day, around 30% of people had hypomania within 1 week. About 10% experienced depression in that time period.

Read more here about how to cope with psychiatric side effects…

2. Face – Cushingoid Changes

Prednisone causes changes to how fat distributes across the body. First it causes moon face, a round puffy face with swollen cheeks. Next it causes abdominal weight gain, making some people feel like they look pregnant with a big belly. It can also cause a buffalo hump of fat deposits on the shoulder and neck area. Normally this takes more than a month to show up, but can happen earlier based on how high of a dose you are taking.

4. Temperature

Hot flashes and flushing. When I took prednisone for a few days, I wrote this in my journal: “Hot flushes and red flushing! My heart beating so hard and fast as if I’d run a race but I was just sitting down.” Which brings me to the next one…

5. Heart

Heart rhythm changes can happen unrelated to heart disease. Fast heartbeats are common.

More rare heart problems include serious cardiovascular disease, and sudden death. Especially for extremely high doses of 1000 mg given as an injection, “pulse infusions,” should be given while hooked up to a heart monitor.

6. Muscles

Myopathy, muscle weakness, and other muscle wasting can happen within weeks to months of starting prednisone.

7. Adrenal Suppression

A single dose of steroids like prednisone can turn off the normal body system that regulates stress, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This causes suppression of the adrenal glands.

Evidence: Short-Term Prednisone Causes Side Effects

The Downsides of Short-term Corticosteroids:

In this huge study, they looked at nearly 300,000 lives insured by a health insurance company in the United States. Around 1 in 5 adults received a prescription for short-term, less than 30 days of prednisone or another steroid, in a 3 year study period. Of these adults, they found an increased risk for the following side effects within those 30 days:

  • Sepsis (huge infection) = nearly 5 times greater risk
  • Venous thromboembolism (clot) = 3 times greater risk
  • Fracture (broken bone) = 1.8 times greater risk

Anyone who says short-term prescriptions won’t cause side effects are wrong based on this study.

I found evidence for all of these short-term side effects in many articles because no one else ever compiled such a list.

What about you? What did you experience in the first 10-20 days of prednisone? Let’s compile a better list.

Fill out this form if you have a side effect experience you’d like to share.

Side Effects

Which side effects did YOU experience?

  • Tell which side effects you experienced

What You Can Do About the Side Effects of Short-Term Prednisone

Many of the short-term side effects of prednisone can be prevented. But most people don’t know what they can do to fight back.

That’s why I created the Prednisone Checklist.

Get access to this valuable list of the top 15 adverse effects of prednisone and what you can do about it.

  • Discover how to avoid the top 7 mistakes prednisone patients make.
  • Find my top 25 tips for coping with prednisone side effects.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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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