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Prednisone is a synthetic hormone commonly referred to as a “steroid”. Prednisone is very similar to cortisone, a natural corticosteroid hormone produced by the body’s adrenal glands.

Prednisone suppresses the body’s immune system and also works to reduce inflammation that people experience as heat, redness, swelling, and pain.

Prednisone is used for the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Polymyalgia Rheumatica, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, diseases that cause inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis), other types of arthritis, and for many other types of diseases.

Corticosteroids like prednisone are very different from anabolic steroids, the risky male-hormone-related steroids that some athletes abuse for performance gains in sports and bodybuilding.

Taking Prednisone

Prednisone is usually available as oral tablets. Other corticosteroids, or medications that are similar to Prednisone, may be given by injection.

Typical doses for Prednisone vary, and can range from 1 mg per day to 100 mg per day. Sometimes Prednisone is prescribed every other day and sometimes it is prescribed two or even three times a day. The dose may be increased during stressful events like surgery or another medical illness to mimic the body’s normal hormone response.

Prednisone is often best taken in the morning with breakfast. This schedule mimics the body’s natural production of corticosteroid hormones.

Most patients start to feel the effects of prednisone within a few days. Some patients will start feeling better hours after taking the first pill.

Important Tests and Risks

Prednisone has a number of potential side effects. Not all patients who take prednisone experience these side-effects. Side-effects are often related to the dose and the length of time that a given patient has been taking this medicine. Higher doses taken for long periods of time are be more likely to cause side-effects than short courses of lower dose prednisone.

Stopping prednisone too quickly can sometimes result in serious side-effects. Prednisone needs to be gradually reduced. Patients should call their doctor before making any changes to their dose.

If someone who takes prednisone forgets to take it at their usual time, but remembers later the same day, they should take it immediately. For those who take prednisone daily, if they forget the previous day’s dose, they should skip it and resume their usual dose for today. For those who take prednisone on alternating days, if they forget the previous day’s dose, they should take that dose today, and then tomorrow resume the alternate day schedule.

Prednisone can weaken the bones. Doctors often advise patients to take extra calcium and vitamin D, and sometimes they may prescribe a “bone hardener” medication to take along with Prednisone.

A very rare but serious possible side effect of Prednisone is avascular necrosis. Patients should call a doctor immediately if they develop a new severe pain in the groin.