Adverse effects, also known as side effects, are the negative consequences of taking a drug. In this article we will outline the common side effects of taking prednisone.
What is an Adverse Effect?
The term adverse effect is simply the medical term for what is commonly called a side effect. Pharmacology textbooks and medical references will refer to the harms caused by a drug as an Adverse Effect, or an Adverse Drug Event, which is often abbreviated as ADE. Another term is Adverse Reaction, or Adverse Drug Reaction, which may be abbreviated ADR. If you have a notable or terrible side effect to a drug in the U.S.A., you should report it to FDA MedWatch. This is the place where the government monitors whether a drug is causing a surprising side effect that might cause the FDA to take an action such as removing the drug from the market. This happened to Vioxx when it was discovered that many people were suffering heart attacks, strokes, and death after taking Vioxx.
What are the Adverse Effects of Prednisone?
This is a tricky question. There are over 150 side effects to prednisone reported in the medical references, and a list of all 150 is overwhelming. What you really want to know is, what’s going to happen to me if I take prednisone? Right?
Most people who take prednisone experience at least one side effect. There are many other drugs where most people experience zero side effects, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol). Chances are if you take prednisone you will have several side effects.
Common Side Effects of Prednisone
Emotional Side Effects
When first starting prednisone, you may feel euphoria and a lot of energy, “like drinking 3 cups of coffee.” This may go away after taking it for several days. Prednisone may cause emotional roller coasters from easy frustration and rage down to depression. People describe these personality changes as “‘Roid Rage” and you should warn your family, friends, and co-workers that you may not be yourself for a while, and to please be more forgiving than usual.
Find peace knowing it’s not you, it’s the drug, in this article about Psychiatric Side Effects of Prednisone.
Many people notice an increased appetite, with unprecedented cravings. People who take prednisone describe it as “you won’t even be hungry but you just want to eat.” This increased appetite can cause weight gain. One study showed an average of 10%. This depends on your dose, as the higher the dose, the more the appetite stimulation. The increased food and sugar eaten can also increase the blood sugar, which can then lead to diabetes. Be careful to use the appetite to eat extra vegetables instead of cookies!
Check out these articles about Prednisone Weight Gain for how it happens and what you can do about it!
Prednisone is the drug most likely to cause osteoporosis, or thinning of bones, which can lead to broken bones. This tricky side effect cannot be felt like the ‘Roid Rage. Bone loss is silent and undetectable except with medical tests like a DEXA scan or MRI/CT scans of the spine and joints. According to the doctors who prescribe prednisone the most, rheumatologists, everyone taking prednisone should take calcium and vitamin D to supplement the nutrients being leached from the bones by prednisone. Read more in this article.
Check out my Prednisone Side Effects Make You Feel Old post for more details.
Prednisone is well-known for causing insomnia. Unless the prednisone dose is taken late in the day, it’s less likely to be unable to fall asleep, as to be able to stay asleep. Many people suffering from insomnia from prednisone tell of feeling fully awake after only a few hours of sleep and feel unable to fall back asleep. Prednisone can also cause strange dreams and nightmares.
Check out my 9+ Healthy Sleep Habits post for tips on how to cope.
Prednisone can affect many aspects of heart health. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common side effect of prednisone that can lead to other heart problems. Heart palpitations, arrhythmias, or rhythm changes, can be harmless like a racing heart and trembling hands, or can be more dangerous and rare.
Watch Dr. Megan explain in more detail:
The Ultimate List of Prednisone Side Effects is coming… stay tuned for more!
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