Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease Treatment and Research
Corticosteroids (Prednisone, Prednisolone)
Generic Names: prednisone, methylprednisolone
Brand Names: Solu-medrol, Medrol, Deltasone, Orapred
Drug Class: Corticosteroid
What do these medications do?
Corticosteroids are used to treat patients with active Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Corticosteroids decrease inflammation in the lining of the intestine by suppressing the activity of the immune system. These medications are effective in treating about 80% of patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and patients will typically experience a reduction of symptoms within 1-2 weeks. Because of the potential for long term side effects, corticosteroids are usually given at full dose for a short period of time, and then the dose is gradually reduced.
What are the side effects?
Most side effects of corticosteroid use are temporary and resolve once you/your child stops taking this medication. The effects are variable from patient to patient. The most common side effects include:
- Weight gain
- Puffy cheeks
- Mood disturbances
- Sleep disturbances
Less common side effects include acne, stretch marks, or hair growth. Rare side effects of corticosteroids include stomach ulcers, headaches, or cataracts. Because corticosteroids suppress the activity of the immune system, they can also increase the risk that patients will have complications of certain infections, especially viral infections like chicken pox or mononucleosis (mono)*. However, most patients taking corticosteroids have no problem managing routine illnesses, including colds, earache, or strep throat.
Long-term use of corticosteroids can lead to decreased growth and bone thinning, which can cause an increased fracture risk and/or hip pain. For this reason, physicians typically prescribe them on a short term basis to get the inflammation under control quickly during times of disease flare.
You should never stop taking corticosteroids abruptly! Your doctor will discuss how to gradually taper your dose over many days. This gradual reduction will prevent a serious side effect known as adrenal insufficiency. Taking steroids affects the adrenal gland’s ability to produce a hormone known as cortisol which helps your body deal with physical stress. Therefore, you should tell your doctor or emergency personnel if you/your child needs surgery or is involved in an accident because you may need a stress dose of steroids.
*You should report fever or any signs of infection to your doctor immediately.
How to take your medication and miscellaneous facts:
- Corticosteroids can be given by mouth or through the vein (IV).
- You should take this medication at the same time everyday, preferably in the morning if taken once a day.
- You should take this medication with food to reduce GI upset. • While taking this medication, you may also need to take an antacid medication to help prevent stomach ulcers.
- If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember.
- Check with your doctor or nurse practitioner before starting any new medications, herbs, or vitamins while taking this medication.