Prednisone is a prescription medication used to treat many conditions including:
- low corticosteroid levels (adrenal insufficiency)
- certain types of arthritis
- allergic conditions
- multiple sclerosis
- lupus and other collagen diseases
- other diseases affecting the lungs, skin, eyes, kidneys, blood, thyroid, stomach, and intestines
Prednisone belongs to a group of drugs called corticosteroids, which replace steroids the body normally makes, leading to overall reduction of inflammation and of the immune system.
This medication comes in tablet and oral solution forms and is usually taken one to four times a day or every other day, with food or milk.
Common side effects of prednisone include headache, dizziness, and difficulty falling asleep. Do not drive or operate machinery until you know how prednisone will affect you.
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Uses of Prednisone
Prednisone is a prescription medication used to treat:
- low corticosteroid levels. Corticosteroids are steroids naturally produced by the body that are required for normal body function.
- allergic reactions
- multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is a disease in which nerves do not function properly due to inflammation.
- lupus. Lupus is a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks itself.
- severe psoriasis. Psoriasis is a disease in which the skin becomes red, irritated, and flaky.
- certain conditions affecting the lungs, skin, eyes, kidneys, blood, thyroid, stomach, and intestines. Prednisone frequently treats diseases of these organs by reducing inflammation.
- some types of cancer such as leukemia (cancer in bone marrow) and lymphoma (cancer of white blood cells)
This medication may be prescribed for other uses. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
Prednisone Brand Names
Prednisone may be found in some form under the following brand names:
Prednisone Drug Class
Prednisone is part of the drug class:
Corticosteroids acting locally
Side Effects of Prednisone
Serious side effects have been reported with prednisone. See “Drug Precautions” section.
Common side effects of prednisone include:
- slow healing
- retention of fluid resulting in swelling
- electrolyte imbalances
- decreased immune system function
- decreased bone density
- inappropriate happiness
- joint and muscle pain
- blurred vision
- abnormal distribution of body fat
This is not a complete list of prednisone side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Especially tell your doctor if you take:
- amphotericin B (Ambisome and Amphotec)
- potassium depleting diuretics such as acetazolamide (Diamox) and methazolamide (Neptazane)
- anticholinesterases such as neostigmine (Prostigmin) and pyridostigmine (Mestinon)
- warfarin (Coumadin)
- medications to treat diabetes
- bupropion (Zyban and Wellbutrin)
- cholestyramine (Prevalite)
- cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune, Gengraf)
- digoxin (Lanoxin)
- estrogens and oral contraceptives
- fluoroquinolone antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin (Cipro) and levofloxacin (Levaquin)
- barbituates such as phenobarbital (Donnatal)
- phenytoin (Dilantin)
- carbamazepine (Tegretol, Carbatrol, Equetro, Teril, Epitol)
- rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane)
- ritonavir (Norvir)
- indinavir (Crixivan)
- macrolide antibiotics such as erythromycin and azithromycin (Zithromax)
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil) and aspirin (Ecotrin)
- quetiapine (Seroquel)
- thalidomide (Thalomid)
This is not a complete list of prednisone drug interactions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
Serious side effects have been reported with prednisone including:
Hypersensitivity reaction: Prednisone may trigger an allergic response. Symptoms of a hypersensitivity reaction include:
Cardiac and renal problems: Prednisone can increase blood pressure, cause water and sodium retention, and increase potassium and calcium excretion. Tell your doctor if you have a history of heart or kidney disease.
Corticosteroid deficiency after drug withdrawal: Once you stop taking prednisone, your body’s ability to produce certain steroid hormones may be impaired.
Immunosuppression: Prednisone decreases your body’s immune response to infections. In addition, prednisone can increase sensitivity to vaccines since the immune response is reduced with prednisone use.
Reactivation of tuberculosis: Tell your doctor if you have had tuberculosis.
Ophthalmic (eye) problems: Prednisone can lead to cataracts and glaucoma.
Perforation of the gastrointestinal tract: Prednisone can cause holes in the stomach or intestinal lining. Tell your doctor if you have a history of ulcers or other digestive system problems.
Decreased bone formation: Prednisone can prevent the formation of bones, which may result in decreased bone density and osteoporosis.
Prednisone can cause dizziness. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how prednisone affects you.
Do not take prednisone if you:
- have a fungal infection
- are allergic to prednisone
Prednisone Food Interactions
Medicines can interact with certain foods. In some cases, this may be harmful and your doctor may advise you to avoid certain foods. In the case of prednisone, there are no specific foods that you must exclude from your diet when receiving prednisone.
Your doctor may suggest a diet low in salt and high in calcium and potassium while taking prednisone.
Before taking prednisone, tell your doctor about all of your medical conditions. Especially tell your doctor if you:
- have thyroid, liver, kidney, or heart disease
- have recently experienced an infection (bacterial, viral, or fungal)
- have recently had or will have a surgical procedure
- have an autoimmune disease like HIV/AIDS
- have had an allergic reaction to prednisone
- have had tuberculosis
- have osteoporosis
- plan to receive a vaccination
- are pregnant or breastfeeding
Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Prednisone and Pregnancy
Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if prednisone will harm your unborn baby.
Prednisone and Lactation
Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed.
You should not take prednisone if you are breastfeeding unless instructed otherwise. It may be excreted in your breast milk and may harm your nursing child.
- Take prednisone exactly as prescribed.
- This medication comes in tablet and oral solution forms and is usually taken one to four times a day or every other day, with food or milk.
- If prednisone upsets your stomach, you should take the medication along with food or milk.
- If you miss a dose, consult your doctor or pharmacist to determine the appropriate course of treatment. Do not take two doses of prednisone at the same time.
Take prednisone exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully.
Your doctor will determine the appropriate dosage and schedule of prednisone depending the disease being treated and your response to the medication. The usual dosage range is 5 to 60 mg per day.
If you take too much prednisone, call your healthcare provider or local Poison Control Center, or seek emergency medical attention right away.