22 Secrets of People Who Take Prednisone
Article updated Feb. 21, 2020.
What Is prednisone?
Prednisone is a corticosteroid medication often prescribed to help suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body. It’s commonly prescribed for people with autoimmune conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. Amy Calabrese Donihi, PharmD, BCPS, FCCP, associate professor of pharmacy and therapeutics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, previously told The Mighty, prednisone helps raise the level of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Elevated levels of corticosteroids help reduce inflammation in your body.
What Are the Side Effects of Prednisone?
While prednisone can be quite effective in controlling symptoms, it can also cause a variety of side effects, including weight gain, increased appetite, excessive sweating and mood swings. For some, the benefits outweigh the side effects. “These side effects should not scare people away from taking it, if indeed they need to take it for their chronic disease,” Donihi said. But for others, prolonged periods on the drug can start to take a physical and emotional toll.
Because prednisone can carry stigmas, and because doctors can only tell you so much about how it will affect you, we asked our Mighty community to share some of the secrets they don’t often tell others about taking prednisone. We hope this helps you make an informed decision — but please consult physicians and other patients before making a final call on taking or not taking prednisone.
Here’s what the community shared with us:
1. “I hate how I feel bloated. It’s a terrible feeling when you’re trying to lose weight – you eat right, you try to exercise when you aren’t in agonizing pain – but when you go to the doctor you haven’t lost anything.”
2. “Mentally it makes my mind a roller coaster. I have major mood swings. One minute I’m OK, the next I’ve burst into tears. One minute I’m mad at nothing, the next I am fine.”
3. “I’m grateful for it. It seems like all I really say about it is how much I hate it. But in reality, without it I would not be alive today! Yes, it has some not-so-fun side effects, but there are ways you can teach yourself to cope over time. The good outweighs the bad!”
4. “Hair loss on [my] head, but I gain a nifty mustache!”
5. “I ended up with horrible localized seizures and an extreme hypertensive crisis that landed me in the ER. Couldn’t stop taking it, as it’s one of the only treatments for my autoimmune disease, so we had to work out the highest dose I could take without seizures.”
6. “I go on two-to-four-week bursts for asthma and it’s the weeks that follow that are worse. Breakouts, red inflammatory patches on my skin that react, redness across my face, aches, fatigue. I call it the ‘Pred Hangover.’ Sometimes it can take a month for the inflammatory/autoimmune response to calm and for me to feel human again.”
7. “It makes me feel like a million bucks. I go from couch surfing due to joint pain to exercising again. I overexert myself and find out the relief was only temporary. Then I eat everything in my refrigerator and it takes me a month or two to lose all the weight I packed on in one week!”
8. “Sweating and being so hot all the time. Even if it’s winter, I’m pouring sweat. Non-stop sweating.”
9. “Prednisone always gives me insomnia. It’s a double-edged sword… It can make me feel great but then I eventually just come crashing back down. I am always exhausted after completing a course.”
10. “It can make you really depressed. When I first got diagnosed with Crohn’s disease I was 8 and was on a high dose for almost a year. I remember just crying and crying for no reason and feeling awful emotionally for no reason. And it can be hard to talk about that side of things because when you get depressed you tend to withdraw.”
11. “I don’t like to admit I actually love it, even with all of the horrible side effects, because every time I’m on it I feel almost normal. It sometimes makes me feel jealous of so many people who get to feel healthy and ‘normal’ every day.”
12. “It’s a tough reminder that I truly have no control over my own body.”
13. “Blood sugar ups and downs that, along with weight gain and moon face, do not in any way match what you consume.”
14. “It made my breasts really sore. It affects my already unbalanced (from pain/fatigue) sex drive.”
15. “[I have to run] to the bathroom and pee constantly. Sometimes I’m not fast enough.”
16. “When I did take it, it was like another world. I wasn’t hurting. I [wondered], is this how everyone feels? Is this real? It was the best week of my life! I wish it was safe enough to take all the time. I miss feeling ‘normal.’”
17. “The withdrawals are almost as bad as the side effects while taking it. I have a rash, acne (I never get pimples!) and headaches. It also affects my mania pretty badly.”
18. “I take it on top of my other psoriatic arthritis meds for flares and the cravings and food ‘needs’ can resemble what we hear of pregnancy. Hard, practically unavoidable cravings. Salt-sweet-salt-sweet-sour-etc. And not getting those foods creates an entire new level of grump.”
19. “[I feel like] I’ve got PMS the whole time – heightened sensitivity to any emotion, body swollen to what feels like double its size, insatiable appetite, hot flushes, wild dreams, bad skin that no product can fix.”
20. “I usually won’t talk about how it helps me so much with a daily low dose because I always hear about how terrible it is.”
21. “It causes bruises to randomly show up, so I end up looking like I got hit by a truck. Everyone stares at me and, if I’m with a male friend, he gets death glares.”
22. “I look in the mirror, and I don’t recognize myself. Physically or psychologically.”
What has your experience been like with this medication? Let us know in the comments below.