Long-Term Side Effects of Prednisone
Last updated: April 2023
Most people with myasthenia gravis (MG) are familiar with prednisone, a common drug prescribed during flares. Prednisone belongs to the drug class called corticosteroids. This class of medications have been given a bad reputation over the years because of their unfavorable side effect profile.
However, when prednisone is prescribed, this typically indicates that the potential benefit of treatment – in this case, to reduce the immune response and therefore subside the flare – outweighs the potential negatives.
Overall, prednisone does come with side effects – some serious - but these should generally not deter most people from taking the drug when needed. Many of the side effects are dose and duration dependent and some can even be minimized.1
Ultimately, your doctor will work with you to determine whether prednisone is an effective and safe option for you.
Steroids such as prednisone are known to cause a "cushingoid" appearance – also known as moon face. These typically develop within the first 2 months of being on prednisone, but it is less likely to occur on low doses of prednisone (less than 5 MG per day).1
Some people also gain weight while on therapy. One study analyzed the use of prednisone in an autoimmune condition called rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and found that using 5-10 MG of prednisone per day over a period of 2 years resulted in a 4-8 percent weight increase.1
Prednisone has numerous effects on the heart. For example, it can result in accumulation of water in the body, which can be problematic if someone has a history of heart failure.11
Prednisone can increase the risk of glaucoma and cataracts. If you already have one of these conditions, your doctor will discuss with you the best way forward.
Prednisone can cause short-term nausea and stomach upset – that is why it is recommended to be taken with food. However, in the long-term, serious bleeding of the stomach can occur if prednisone is combined with other drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil) and blood thinners.1
If you are going to be on prednisone for a long period of time, your doctor may prescribe you another medication to protect your stomach and inform of you of other medicines you should avoid.
Effect on bones
Perhaps one of the most well-documented long-term effect of prednisone is its effect on bones. Prednisone can increase the risk of a condition called osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones, which increases the risk of fractures.1
Depending on how long your prednisone treatment is, your doctor may prescribe another medication to help protect your bones.
Prednisone can increase blood sugar levels, which is particularly of concern for people with diabetes. Your doctor may monitor your blood sugar levels more often while on treatment.1
Prednisone can increase the risk of mood disorders, such as confusion, psychosis, and depression. These effects are often reversible, but caution may be used if there is a history of these mood disorders.1
If you’ve taken prednisone for an extended period of time, did you experience any of these side effects? Share your experiences down below!
My most frustrating MG symptom is _____.