As the NFL season begins, I can’t help but wonder as I look through the suspension roster what certain players were thinking when they were caught using performance enhancement drugs (hormones). Baseball had a whole investigation on firm in south florida that treated players with synthetic hormones. All for an increase in performance. Let’s not even talk about weight lifters. To better understand the reasons why such effort is wasted to gain a competitive edge, we need to understand how to the body works.
The human body is a remarkable creation of evolution. It is self healing and constantly generating new cells. We could sit here for the next decade talking about all of the different functions that the body performs. We are going to discuss one important section called the adrenal gland. The adrenal glands are located above the kidneys. The reason for their importance is that they secrete (create) hormones that regulate body functions. There are many hormones that are created on the gland. You have glucocorticoids such as cortisol which is important for immune system suppression. Then there are androgens which are converted into sex hormones and also mineralcorticoids which help regulate blood pressure and electrolytes.
Our focus for this article are the synthetic corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are the steroid hormones which regulate a wide range of psychological processes, including stress response, immune response, regulation of inflammation, carbohydrate metabolism, protein catabolism (energy creation and release), blood electrolyte levels, and behavior. The most widely used synthetic corticosteroids is prednisone.
Prednisone is one of those drugs that have been around for a while (since the 1950s). Prednisone is primarily used as a steroid but has been found to be very effective as an immune-suppresant (shut down the immune system) which can also heal inflammation in your body. It is absorbed and converted to working enzymes in your live. So simplify how it works: every time you stress out, injure yourself or put your body under a stressful situation, your adrenal gland (located above the kidney) releases hormones into your blood supply which makes your immune system overreact (inflammation). When prednisone is taken, it is processed (broken down) in the liver, then goes into the adrenal gland and chemically relaxes your immune system.
Prednisone is used to treat many different disorders from rare diseases like lupus, Crohn’s disease, asthma, COPD, rheumatic disorders, tuberculosis, allergies, various skin conditions, poison oak, multiple sclerosis, migraine headaches, cluster headaches and even syphilis. It is also used as a combination drug for some cancers (lymphoma and leukemia). The prednisone long term side effects can be serious.
When you are dealing with an immune suppressant long term, your body loses the ability to fight off infection. Once you have a weak autoimmune system, the common cold is dangerous enough to put you in the hospital. Other major side effects include with constant use include weight gain, osteoporosis, dementia, glaucoma, cataracts, mental confusion such as maintaining train of thought, insomnia, fatigue, stomach pain, aggressive personality, depression and blurry vision. New studies have shown that significant use of prednisone can actually reduce your vision capabilities.
Short Term Side Effects
The prednisone side effects short term are not as alarming. Keep in mind that it does take a few days for prednisone to kick. This is the reason why the doctor will start a high dosage the first few days and reduce the dosage as time goes on. Over this short period of time, you may experience reactions to your skin such as acne, hives, rashes or dry skin. Headaches are possible with some dizziness and sweating more than normal can also occur. Don’t try and use this drug instead of going to the gym, it’s a different kind of sweating. The longer you use it (months) the worse the side effects get. The side effects are most dangerous for diabetics since it increases the level of blood sugar.
One of the most important things is to be careful when taking other medications with Prednisone. Simple medications like aspirin, blood thinners or diuretics (for crash dieters so no quick dieting), can cause internal bleeding in your intestines or ulcers in your stomach. There is also a concern if you are using oral insulin, other oral diabetic medications and seizure medications like Dilantin or Luminal. In addition, did you know that side effects of prednisone in dogs are similar to humans? Prednisone is prescribed to treat various ailments in pets as well (dogs and cats mainly) since their hormone structure is similar to ours.
Do you have any concerns about prednisone?