What Are Oral Corticosteroids?
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Oral Corticosteroids: Uses, Dosage, Side Effects, Drug Warnings, and Precautions

Published on Nov 18, 2022 and last reviewed on Dec 08, 2022   -  6 min read


Oral Corticosteroids are orally administered Corticosteroid medications employed to treat various inflammatory conditions like allergies, arthritis, and asthma, among others. Read more about this drug class below.


Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medications used to treat various inflammatory conditions. Oral corticosteroids are this class's medications that are taken orally, mostly in tablet form. The anti-inflammatory effects of these are widely used in treating various inflammatory conditions, like asthma, allergies, lupus, etc. Avoid taking this drug if there is a known allergy to the medication or its components.

Drug Group:

Corticosteroids are medications that work similarly to the hormone cortisol, which is naturally produced by the adrenal glands. They function by regulating an overactive immune system and lowering inflammation locally (in a particular area of the body) or systemically (entire body). Oral Corticosteroids are medications of this class that are taken orally, mostly in tablet form. The anti-inflammatory effects of these Corticosteroids are widely used in treating various inflammatory conditions, mainly asthma. The most commonly used oral Corticosteroids are Prednisone, Methylprednisolone, Prednisolone, and Dexamethasone.

What Are Oral Corticosteroids Used For?

Oral Corticosteroids are most often used to treat inflammatory conditions like-

  • Inflammatory bowel conditions, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

  • Autoimmune disorders, such as autoimmune hepatitis and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

  • Long-term control of severe asthma.

  • Instances of relapse in multiple sclerosis.

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

  • Muscle and joint conditions (for example, rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica).

  • Allergies.

  • Replacement therapy for patients with a deficit of natural steroids, like Addison’s disease, hypopituitarism, and congenital adrenal hyperplasia. They are also employed in the treatment of inflammatory symptoms in cancers.

How Does Oral Corticosteroids Work?

Oral corticosteroids generally work by suppressing the immune system of its inflammatory responses. They do so by binding to the glucocorticoid receptors in the body. Now, these receptors are responsible for initiating inflammatory reactions in various conditions. By binding to these receptors, these drugs form a complex and inhibit the synthesis of the inflammatory chemicals, thereby giving an anti-inflammatory effect.

Onset of Action:

The onset and duration of action vary for each drug under this class of medications. The frequency of administration will depend on these parameters and will be adjusted by the doctor accordingly.


Oral Corticosteroids have not been reported to develop any habit-forming tendencies.

Expiry Date:

Do not take the drug after it expires. The expiry date will be printed on the back of the pack.

What Is the Dosage of Oral Corticosteroids?

The dosing of oral Corticosteroids will depend on the severity of the condition, and the doctor will make adjustments depending on the response to the therapy. If the situation improves, the steroid therapy may occasionally be progressively discontinued.

The usual pattern of dosing is as follows:

  • Short Courses: In the case of short-term treatment of conditions, a higher dose is usually prescribed each day for the desired duration of therapy, after which it will stop. If the condition requires treatment for more than three weeks, then the dose will not be stopped abruptly; instead, there will be a gradual reduction in the dosage, which will be continued until the treatment is withdrawn slowly.

  • Long-term Treatment: The dosing pattern for people who need to take oral steroids for a prolonged period is to start with a high dose to control symptoms. The dose is gradually lowered to a smaller daily amount that prevents symptoms.

Ensure to inform the doctor how well the drug is working and if any side effects are experienced.

The available doses of the commonly used oral Corticosteroids are as follows:



In case an overdose happens, and unusual symptoms arise, contact the emergency department or the nearest poison control center immediately.

What Are the Contraindications of Oral Corticosteroids?

The use of oral Corticosteroids is strictly unadvised in case of an active fungal infection.

How to Use Oral Corticosteroids?

  • Take the tablet as instructed by the physician.

  • Follow the instructions and ensure to take them at the right frequency.

  • Swallow the tablet along with a glass of water.

  • The medicine may irritate the stomach. Hence, taking it along with or after meals is recommended.

  • Do not stop using the drug without medical advice. Do consult the doctor first.

Missed Dose:

Take a missed dose as soon as you remember it is recalled. Skip the missing dose if it is already time for the next dose.

What Are the Drug Warnings and Precautions?

Before taking this medication, inform the doctor if any of the following conditions are present:

  1. Allergies: If the patient has ever experienced an unusual or adverse reaction to this or any other medication, let the doctor know immediately. If there are any additional allergies to foods, colors, preservatives, or animals, be sure to let the healthcare provider know.

  2. Open Wounds: Steroids can interfere with the healing process as the immune system is suppressed. Inform the doctor if the patient has any healing wounds before starting the medication.

  3. Osteoporosis: Steroids can cause bone thinning; hence, avoid using or consult the doctor if there is a history of osteoporosis.

  4. Liver Diseases: Dose adjustment may be required. Inform the physician.

  5. Duodenal or Gastric Ulcers: Oral steroids can irritate the stomach. Hence, inform the doctor before taking the drug if there is a history of ulcers.

  6. Heart Diseases: Oral steroids can cause changes in the heart beating rhythms. Inform the doctor if the patient has a history of high blood pressure, a recent heart attack, or heart failure.

  7. Diabetes: This may cause decreased blood sugar levels. Inform the doctor before administration.

  8. Cushing's Syndrome: It is a condition that is characterized by weight gain, weak muscles, and easy bruising, which is common on prolonged use of Corticosteroids. Seek medical help if symptoms appear.

  9. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Make sure to let the doctor know in case of pregnancy and breastfeeding. The medications can affect the fetus. If the patient becomes pregnant after starting the medicine, inform the doctor immediately.

What Are the Side Effects of Oral Corticosteroids?

  • Weight Gain: It is common to experience weight gain and a puffy face while on oral Corticosteroids.

  • Increased Infections: As steroids suppress the immune system, there are chances that the patient may be prone to other infections like chickenpox, bacterial infections, etc.

  • Thinning of Bones: This is common while on Corticosteroid therapy. The physician may prescribe other medications to help prevent this.

  • High Blood Pressure: Monitor the blood pressure levels as the medication may increase the levels.

  • Muscle Weakness: This usually goes away after the therapy is stopped.

  • High Blood Sugar Levels: Monitor the blood sugar levels.

  • Easy Bruising of the Skin: Corticosteroid use is associated with developing skin problems like poor healing and bruising. Take proper care to avoid injuries while in therapy.

  • Cataracts: Inform the physician if the patient experiences blurring vision or any problems with sight.

  • Mood Changes: Behavioral and mood changes are common while on Corticosteroid therapy. Get medical help if the patient develops symptoms of depression or related conditions.

Seek medical attention if the patient experiences any severe or unusual symptoms.

What Are the Interactions of Oral Corticosteroids?

It is common for drugs to interact with other drugs, food, or supplements. These interactions can result in unwanted side effects. The common interactions include

1. With Other Drugs: Drug interactions are specific for each drug under this class. However, inform the doctor if the patient is taking any of the following medications:

  • Antidiabetics.

  • Antifungals.

  • Drugs for high blood pressure.

  • Drugs for epilepsy.

  • Warfarin.

  • Salbutamol.

Communicate with the doctor or pharmacist to check for interactions.

2. With Alcohol: Avoid taking alcohol while on oral steroids, as it may worsen the side effects of these medications.

3. With Food: Oral steroids may raise blood sugar levels. Hence, avoid using simple carbohydrates or food that may raise blood sugar.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Is an Oral Corticosteroid?

Oral corticosteroids are made of steroids. They are employed for the purpose of alleviating inflammation within the body. This will help decrease swelling, itching, redness, and allergic reactions. Oral corticosteroids include cortisone, hydrocortisone, and prednisone.


Which Is the Most Commonly Given Oral Corticosteroid?

Oral corticosteroids are used for the treatment of many conditions. Even though there are many oral corticosteroids, the most commonly given oral corticosteroids are prednisolone and dexamethasone.


Why Are Corticosteroids Used?

Corticosteroids are mainly used for reducing inflammation and for suppressing the immune system. They are given for conditions like asthma, allergic rhinitis, urticaria, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and many other conditions.


Is It Safe to Take Oral Corticosteroids?

Corticosteroids are given in many medical conditions. But they are not given in cases of serious infections as they cause immunosuppression and hence can worsen the condition.


In Which Cases Are Corticosteroids Contraindicated?

The contraindications of the corticosteroids are live or attenuated vaccines (when immunosuppressed dosages), hypersensitivity to any of the components, osteoporosis, systemic fungal infection, uncontrolled hyperglycemia, glaucoma, diabetes mellitus, joint infection, varicella infection, and uncontrolled hypertension.


For What Duration Can Oral Corticosteroids Be Taken?

Steroids are typically administered for a limited duration. Patients who are on steroids should follow the doctor's instructions properly and should not stop the medicine on their own. Steroids are generally prescribed for a period of over eight weeks.


When Should Oral Corticosteroids Be Taken?

The steroids should be taken only under doctor’s supervision. Steroids should be taken with or after the food ti prevent irritation of the stomach lining.


What Are the Potential Adverse Effects of Oral Corticosteroids?

The side effects of oral corticosteroids are:
- Swelling and fluid build up in the lower legs.
- High blood pressure.
- Mood swings, memory loss, behavior, and other psychological effects, such as confusion or delirium.
- Stomach issues.
- Weight gain especially in the face, back of the neck, and abdomen.

Last reviewed at:
08 Dec 2022  -  6 min read




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