What You Need To Know About Prednisone

What is prednisone?

Prednisone is a prescription drug. This means your healthcare provider has given it to you as part of a treatment plan. Prednisone is part of a group of drugs called corticosteroids (often called "steroids"). Other steroid drugs include prednisolone, hydrocortisone, and methylprednisolone. Prednisone can be given in different ways, including pill, injection, and inhaled. It is usually given as a pill when used after a kidney transplant, or for certain kidney disorders.

How does it work?

Steroid drugs, such as prednisone, work by lowering the activity of the immune system. The immune system is your body’s defense system. Steroids work by slowing your body’s response to disease or injury. Prednisone can help lower certain immune-related symptoms, including inflammation and swelling.

What is prednisone used for?

Prednisone is used to treat many different diseases like:

  • Lupus
  • Asthma
  • Rashes
  • Certain types of arthritis

Prednisone can also help avoid organ rejection after a kidney transplant, because of its ability to lower your immune system’s response to the new kidney. The body recognizes a transplanted organ as a foreign mass. This triggers a response by the body’s immune system to attack it.

Prednisone can also be used to manage other kidney disorders, including:

These conditions can lead to nephrotic syndrome. As a result, large amounts of protein leaks into the urine. This in turn reduces the amount of protein in your blood, known as proteinuria. Prednisone is used to help lower proteinuria in these disorders.

What are the side effects of prednisone?

However, prednisone also has possible side effects. These may include:

  • Headaches
  • Changes in mood
  • Slowed healing of cuts and bruises
  • Acne
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Swelling (face, arms, hands, lower legs, or feet)

Can prednisone worsen other health conditions?

People taking prednisone can also experience higher blood sugar, which is a special concern for those with diabetes. Because prednisone suppresses the body’s immune system, it can also increase the risk of infection. Therefore, some precautions need to be taken.

Before taking prednisone, talk to your healthcare provider about the following:

  • If you have a history of allergies to prednisone or other steroid drugs
  • Other medications you are currently taking
  • If you have diabetes
  • Whether you have high blood pressure
  • If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant

What can I do to stay healthy while taking prednisone? 

Your healthcare provider will weigh the possible benefits and side effects when giving this and other medications. Many people have benefitted from prednisone without serious side effects. Talking to your healthcare provider, using your medication as instructed, and taking the necessary precautions, can help you benefit from prednisone while managing side effects.  Here are some things you can do to keep yourself healthy:

  • Take your medication as prescribed.
    • Avoid double dosing. Find out from your healthcare provider what to do if you miss a dose.
    • Do not stop taking the medication without your healthcare provider’s consent. Usually your dose of prednisone is tapered (or slowly reduced), to help avoid the effects of withdrawal. A sudden stoppage of using prednisone can lead to withdrawal symptoms including:
      • Fatigue
      • Dramatic changes in mood
  • Reduce the amount salt and sugar in your diet.
  • Monitor your weight.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if you experience any sudden or unusual symptoms, including dizziness, vision problems, shortness of breath, and/or irregular heartbeat.