The Benefits-and Hidden Dangers-of Prednisone

For convenience and quick relief, this pain-killer is hard to beat. Long-term use is another story.

Many people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) suffer flare-ups that their regular medications arent strong enough to help. Others find that medicines typically prescribed to ease RA symptoms arent enough at all. Prednisone can bring relief in both cases. "We know that prednisone can improve swelling, pain, and function. So most rheumatologists will prescribe it for someone who is flaring or suffering with increased pain, joint stiffness and swelling ," says Matthew Bunyard, MD, Director of Clinic Operations for the Department of Rheumatic and Immunologic Diseases at Cleveland Clinic. Research has shown that prednisone can be very effective in relieving RA pain. But the drug, even in low doses, also can have serious side effects, including cataracts, infection, muscle weakness, weight gain, elevated blood sugar, hypertension, and osteoporosis. And while patients taking prednisone over longer periods for chronic pain and swelling are at greater risk for developing these conditions, even patients taking prednisone briefly can suffer from serious side effects.
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