The Asthma Center

Corticosteroid risks

Precautions when taking corticosteroids

If taking oral corticosteroids, especially large daily doses, for prolonged periods, you should be aware of their potential side effects. Through careful and regular follow-up visits with your physicians or asthma specialists, many of these side effects may be avoided and/or minimized.

In using oral corticosteroids, The Asthma Center specialists always attempt to use the smallest dose or most modest corticosteroid treatment program that will be effective. When the risks of the asthma outweigh the potential side effects of the corticosteroid treatment, your asthma specialists should carefully and thoughtfully consider your well-being in prescribing corticosteroids.

In addition to the risks listed below, patients must be aware of the possibility of steroid dependancy and osteoporosis.


Potential Corticosteroid-Related Side Effects

Weight gain Water retention
Filling out or rounding of the face Osteoporosis (weak bones)
High blood pressure Damage to hip bone (necrosis)
Inhibition of linear growth in children Muscle weakness
Cataracts Glaucoma
Gastric ulcer Thinning of skin
Increased hair growth in women Acne
Loss of hair Stretch marks
Increased bruising of skin Personality changes
Menstrual changes Depression
Increased blood sugar Irritability
Increased risk of infections Euphoria
Fat accumulation on the back


Corticosteroids often disturb the stomach. As with aspirin and theophylline, they are best taken with meals, liquid antacids, and/or anti-ulcer medications.

Long term use of corticosteroids can also leave you steroid dependent. This possibility reinforces the need to continually meet with your physician to maintain the optimal treatment program.