Steroids: The What, The How, And Are They Safe?

Steroids are chemicals that your body makes naturally. They help your organs, tissues, and cells do their jobs. You need a healthy balance of them to grow. Steroids can also refer to man-made medicines. The two main types are corticosteroids and anabolic steroids.





Steroids: What Are Corticosteroids?

They’re medicines that quickly fight inflammation in your body. These lab-made steroids work like the hormone cortisol, which your adrenal glands make. Cortisol keeps your immune system from making substances that cause inflammation. Corticosteroid drugs, like prednisone, work in a similar way. They slow or stop the immune system mechanism that triggers inflammation.


Steroids: What Do Corticosteroids Treat?

They help treat conditions that cause irritation and swelling. They ease symptoms of:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
  • Lupus and other autoimmune disorders
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rashes and skin conditions like eczema


Steroids: Formats Prescribed

There are many forms. Which form prescribed will depend on the part of the body that is affected. The formats are:

  • Pill or liquid
  • Inhaler
  • Nasal spray
  • Shot
  • Skin cream
  • Tube that goes into a vein (IV)


Steroids: Side Effects

Steroids are very powerful drugs. Side effects will depend on the dose and how the time length of the prescription.  Short-term use can cause weight gain, puffy face, nausea, mood swings, and trouble sleeping. Additional possible side effects are thinner skin, acne, unusual hair growth, and spikes in blood sugar and blood pressure. Because corticosteroids turn down the immune system, taking them makes increases the likelihood of getting infections.


Steroids: Long Term Side Effects

Taking high doses of corticosteroids for a long time can cause serious side effects. Using them for more than 3 months can cause brittle bones that break easily (osteoporosis). Kids who take them for a long time might grow more slowly. Other side effects are muscle weakness, eye problems (including cataracts), and a higher risk of diabetes.


Anabolic Steroids

They’re man-made versions of testosterone, a male sex hormone that helps build bigger muscles. They’re taken by mouth or injection. They are prescribed for testosterone deficiency, cancer patients who have lost muscle mass, and AIDS.

Anabolic steroid inducing high performance and muscle-boosting powers have led to widespread misuse and abuse. Abusers tend to use extremely high doses. For example, some people take 100 times the dose legally prescribed for health problems.


Anabolic Steroid Side Effects

Side effects are bad acne and fluid retention. Long-term use can stop the body from making testosterone. In men, this causes lower sperm counts, infertility, and breast growth. Women may have male-pattern baldness, facial hair growth, periods that change or stop, and a deeper voice. In addition, high doses can lead to extreme mood swings, anger, and aggression.

Long-term use, especially at high doses, can damage the liver, kidneys, and heart. Severe fluid retention can cause heart swelling and heart failure. These drugs can also raise LDL “bad” cholesterol, which makes it more likely to have heart attacks and strokes.



Steroids are powerful drugs that help your organs, tissues, and cells do their jobs. Because of their potency, prolonged use or abuse can lead to chronic illness, organ failure, stroke, or heart attack.

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