Corticosteroid drugs

A group of drugs that are similar to the corticosteroid hormones produced by the adrenal glands. Corticosteroids are used as hormone replacement therapy in Addison’s disease and when the adrenal glands or pituitary gland have been destroyed or removed. They are also used to treat inflammatory intestinal disorders such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease and as an urgent treatment for inflammation in the artery supplying the retina in temporal arteritis. Other uses include treatment of autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis, and treatment of asthma, eczema, and allergic rhinitis. Corticosteroid drugs are also used to prevent organ rejection after transplant surgery and in the treatment of some types of cancer, such as a lymphoma or leukaemia. Corticosteroid injections may relieve pain in disorders such as tennis elbow and arthritis. Side effects are uncommon when corticosteroids are given as a cream or by inhaler, but tablets taken in high doses for long periods may cause oedema, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, peptic ulcer, Cushing’s syndrome, inhibited growth in children, and, in rare cases, cataract or psychosis. High doses also impair the body’s immune system. Long-term treatment suppresses production of corticosteroid hormones by the adrenal glands, and sudden withdrawal may lead to adrenal failure.


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