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What Are Steroids?

Short for Corticosteroids


Updated June 13, 2014

Definition: Corticosteroid drugs, called "steroids" for short, are potent chemical substances which can reduce swelling and inflammation quickly. These drugs are closely related to cortisol, a hormone produced on the cortex of the adrenal glands.

Corticosteroids are used in arthritis treatment because of their anti-inflammatory properties, but recommended as a low-dose or short-term treatment when possible to minimize side effects. Corticosteroids are not the same as "anabolic steroids" (performance enhancing drugs being used and abused in sports).

Corticosteriods are prescribed in widely varying doses depending on the condition and goal of treatment. Used to control inflammation of the joints and organs in diseases such as:

Potential for serious side effects and adverse reactions increases at high doses or with long-term use of steroids. Doctors can prescribe short-term, high-dose intravenous steroids in some situations, or give shots or injections with drugs such as Triamcinolone (Kenalog) locally into a specific joint for relief.

Corticosteroid Drugs Include:

Also Known As: corticosteroids, glucocorticoids

Common Misspellings: steriods stareroids

Examples: If you are taking a steroid long-term, doses of steroids should never be stopped suddenly. Steroids MUST be decreased gradually so as to permit the adrenal glands to resume natural cortisol production. In cases where corticosteroids were taken in low doses for long periods of time, tapering of the drugs can continue for months or even years. Eliminating doses too quickly can result in life-threatening adrenal crisis.

Sources: Corticosteroids, MedicineNet, 3/2/2005


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