Steroids are powerful anti-inflammatory agents used for treating inflammation and pain of arthritis and improving joint mobility. They work by suppressing the pro-inflammatory activities of enzymes and proteins released by the immune system.
Although steroids for treating arthritis are available in the form of ointments and tablets, they are widely used as injections for reducing chronic arthritis pain. The steroid when injected to the affected joint provides fast relief from pain. Owing to lower risk of side effects, steroid injections are considered safer than oral or intravenous therapy with steroids.
Types of Steroids for Arthritis
Cortisone injections are given to knee, ankle, hip, shoulder and wrist joints and smaller joints of hands and feet affected by arthritis. Certain complications may develop during treatment with cortisone. Osteoporosis, especially thinning of a bone near the joint, death of a bone near the injection site, joint infection, rupture or weakening of tendons of the affected joint, discoloration of skin around the site of the injection and nerve damage are common side effects of cortisone injections.
However, most of the side effects can be avoided by limiting the number of cortisone shots each year. The number of cortisone shots that a person is likely to receive each year is determined by the severity of arthritis and the joint to be treated. Usually doctors recommend not more than three to four cortisone injections per year.
Prednisone is usually taken orally to treat inflammation and pain. Depending upon the severity of arthritis and your health condition, your doctor may ask you to take prednisone tablet once every alternate day or one to four times a day daily. This steroid is taken with food. To diminish harmful side effects of oral steroids, doctors always try to prescribe the minimum dose of prednisone for prolonged treatment.
Prednisone may interact with anticoagulants, anti-fungal drugs, diuretics, immunosuppressant medications, diabetic drugs, hormonal contraceptive, aspirin and several other medications. Osteoporosis, headache, dizziness, acne, fragile skin, slow healing of wounds, fatigue, muscle weakness, excess hair growth, increased perspiration and weight gain are common side effects of prednisone. A diet rich in calcium and potassium and low sodium intake may reduce the risk of some of these side effects.
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Inflammation and pain of the joint can be treated with triamcinolone acetonide injection. Stomach upset, weight gain, sleeping problems, dizziness, headache and menstrual changes are common side effects of triamcinolone.
Allergic reactions and serious side effects such as easy bleeding, bone pain, severe abdominal pain, increased urination, rapid heartbeat, swelling of feet and ankle need prompt medical intervention. People with osteoporosis, heart problems, bleeding problems, eye diseases and infections should use this steroid with caution.
Methylprednisolone is taken orally to reduce inflammation and pain. It is usually taken once each day or as directed by physician, preferably with milk or food. Just as any other oral steroid, methylprednisolone is linked to adverse side effects.
People on this steroid should avoid grapefruit as it may worsen the side effects. Heartburn, nausea, vomiting, appetite change, dizziness, headache, acne, diabetes and excess perspiration are common side effects of methylprednisolone.