Steroids Linked to Side Effects in Adrenal Glands
Written by Editor   
Thursday, May 14, 2015 12:00 AM

Corticosteroids are man-made drugs designed to mimic the hormone cortisol, which the adrenal glands produce naturally. The drugs are usually used to counter inflammation in a wide range of conditions.  After stopping steroids commonly prescribed for asthma and allergies, a significant number of people may experience signs of malfunctioning in the adrenal glands, a European study finds. Adrenal insufficiency can be dangerous, especially if the person’s body has to cope with a stress like surgery, injury or a serious illness, the study authors say.

The takeaway message of the study is that in corticosteroid use there is a substantial risk of adrenal insufficiency. Patients should be aware of this risk and be informed about potential symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, weight loss and salt cravings, the authors write in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 

People with adrenal insufficiency do not make enough of two hormones, cortisol and aldosterone. Cortisol helps the body respond to stress, recover from infections and regulate blood pressure and metabolism. Aldosterone helps maintain the right amounts of salt, potassium and water in the body.

While on steroids, the body often produces less of these hormones naturally, and after coming off the drugs it can take a while for natural production to ramp back up. The result is adrenal insufficiency.

Researchers found the risk of adrenal insufficiency was highest when corticosteroids were taken orally or injected, and lower with inhaled, nasal or topical treatment.  They found that the risk of adrenal insufficiency was about 44 percent with oral medication.  There is no way to safely halt treatment with corticosteroids that can rule out the potential for adrenal insufficiency, researchers said.

The side effect is more likely when patients take higher doses of steroids or remain on treatment for longer than three weeks. "It's likely, and it's often overlooked because most often the people who prescribe corticosteroids aren't endocrinologists; they are in other specialities and they don't recognize the symptoms of adrenal insufficiency." 


Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/23/us-health-steroids-adrenal-glands-idUSKBN0NE28S20150423