Steroids are a class of drug famous for their anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Initially, people considered the first form of steroids (called cortisone) a miracle drug when it helped in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in 1949. This drug reduces inflammation by imitating the natural body hormone that is responsible for this function. Although the popularity of steroids in arthritis has diminished over time due to the potential adverse side effects, these group of drugs still help to manage most signs and symptoms of arthritis.
Diseases such as arthritis usually occur when our immune system attacks the organs and tissues in our body. Since steroids offer immunosuppressive effects, they are crucial at this point. Steroids decrease this harmful body activity. When you have arthritis, the joints on your hand and feet become stiff, swollen, and painful. A person with arthritis has a hard time moving around and accomplishing some basic daily tasks due to pain. In this article, we discuss the role that steroids play in the treatment of arthritis.
The Role of Steroids in Arthritis
According to the American College of Rheumatology, doctors should use the lowest dose of steroids to treat arthritis. When treating arthritis, the patient can take steroids through topical applications or via injections. In the case of oral steroids, you ingest a capsule, pill, or take the liquid form to help reduce inflammation that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness. Researchers also contend that steroids help reduce bone deterioration in patients with arthritis. Examples of oral steroids used to treat arthritis include prednisone, triamcinolone, dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, and betamethasone.
You can also use the injection option whereby a health provider injects the steroid in the joints to relieve swelling and pain. In the early stages of arthritis, steroid injections provide both systemic and local pain relief. These injections also help to decrease the size of arthritis nodules and will prevent you from scheduling surgery. Some people also use topical steroids to treat arthritis. In other cases, studies suggest that low testosterone levels are linked to arthritis, and it is for this reason doctors recommend the use of testosterone cypionate to address this issue.
At night when you sleep, the body goes through a natural process of making cortisol but the amount made at night is less when you compare to that made during the day. Due to this less amount of cortisol made at night, the symptoms of arthritis get worse, and you start developing stiffness. That is why most arthritis patients complain that symptoms are worse in the morning. However, using a steroid formulation helps to counteract these night activities and manage the symptoms of arthritis. A slow release of steroid injections will help to improve your symptoms.
In one study, the researchers argue that the morning symptoms evident in patients with arthritis relate to an increase in inflammation during the night, coupled up with decreased secretion of cortisol. Despite the high cost of steroids such as prednisone, which is an immediate release drug, it is one of the best therapies for patients with arthritis. The study shows the effectiveness of steroids in treating arthritis.
The effect that steroid has in the treatment of arthritis is significant. Doctors are using the drug in children but at low disease to treat juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Before the administration of the drug, you will notice that a child feels unwell and miserable. However, within 12 hours of getting a steroid dose, the child’s condition greatly improves. Therefore, you can safely use it to help your child who is suffering from arthritis. However, patients should take care when using steroids in both children and adults to avoid introducing infection in the body. The results of one research that focused on steroid use in arthritis showed that although it helps to alleviate symptoms, doctors associated it with the risk of developing an infection. The solution to this is to ensure that you use the steroid for the shortest period possible.
Steroids work best when combined with other medications used in treating arthritis. It is imperative to note that they are just an additive to the treatment, and patients should never consider using it as the primary treatment. Although there are still controversies concerning the use of these medicines, most studies discussed above have shown that they are effective in most cases and approved by credible organizations for use in rheumatoid arthritis.
It will be inconclusive to discuss the role of steroids in arthritis without considering some of the risks involved in using this drug to treat the condition. One of the main risks is the heart attack. In one review that involved patients with arthritis that were using steroids, the researchers found out that more than 68% of the patients had a high risk of getting a heart attack. The findings of this study are reliable because they involved a large study sample of 8,384 people that were suffering from arthritis for more than 5 years and consumed at least 5mg of steroids daily. Besides heart attack, arthritis patients also risk developing osteoporosis when they use steroids for a long time. Other risks include increased mortality, diabetes, and cataracts. The good thing is that the risks only come to play when you use steroids for a long duration.
In low doses and when used for a short duration, steroids can help to manage the symptoms of arthritis. They are very effective in relieving both pain and swelling, which are the key problems that patients complain about. If you have arthritis, visit your doctor for the right type and amount of steroid to use. Make sure you ask the doctor any questions that you need addressing before beginning treatment. After some time, when you relieve your symptoms, you can stop taking steroids to avoid experiencing adverse side effects.