How to Avoid Prednisone Withdrawal

Doctors prescribe prednisone, a corticosteroid, to treat a variety of conditions that involve swelling and inflammation. These conditions include breathing difficulties such as asthma; skin conditions that cause swelling and itching, such as poison ivy; arthritis; allergies; digestive problems; kidney problems; multiple sclerosis (MS)  episodes; and lupus.

In general, prednisone is prescribed short-term, and the dose is reduced slowly over several days.

If prednisone therapy is stopped abruptly, the patient may experience prednisone withdrawal. Symptoms of prednisone withdrawal include nausea, severe fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, lightheadedness, weakness, joint pain, mood swings, and body aches.

The longer the prescribed course prednisone, and the higher the dose, the more severe withdrawal symptoms would be, and the longer they would last.

Why would someone stop prednisone abruptly? We see this commonly with antibiotics. Just 24 hours on antibotics can make someone with a bacterial infection feel much better. So, too, one day of prednisone can greatly alleviate the symptoms of the condition for which it was prescribed. However, simply feeling relief from symptoms is not the same as no longer requiring medication. In the case of antibiotics, the infection has not yet been vanquished; in fact, stopping a course of antibiotics in the middle can cause it to return with extra strength, and, often, resistance to the original antibiotic. With prednisone, the body’s hormonal system — in particular, the production of cortisol — is disrupted when taking the drug. It takes time for the adrenal gland to return to normal cortisol production. Until then, the person still needs prednisone, though in diminishing quantities.

What is the best way to avoid prednisone withdrawal? Follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter. The dosages, including the tapered dosages, are prescribed in a way to ease the weaning process. A person on prednisone should never stop their course of treatment suddenly. They should also not take more medication than prescribed, or alter the schedule of tapered doses.

In addition, when weaning off prednisone, it can be helpful to make certain lifestyle changes to help ease the return to normal adrenal function. These changes include abstaining from alcohol and caffeine, getting enough sleep, and avoiding stress.

At Laurel Bay Health and Rehabilitation Center, in the scenic beach town of Keansburg, NJ, we are experts in geriatrics, and take special care managing our residents’ medications, including but not limited to prednisone.

Moreover, our specialty is in pulmonary care. Headed by leading pulmonary specialist Dr. Avtar Parhar, our program is the most highly advanced pulmonary rehabilitation program in Monmouth County. At Laurel Bay, we focus on restorative and preventive care for those who suffer with chronic respiratory disease.  

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