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What Are Some Short-Term Prednisone Side Effects?

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Prednisone is an oral corticosteroid medication that acts by reducing the activity of the immune system. It is used to treat a wide range of conditions. 

People can use prednisone short-term for asthma exacerbation or an allergic reaction, while chronic prednisone use is typical for people with autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Prednisone is also used for many other health conditions, such as adrenal gland problems, intestinal problems like ulcerative colitis and inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory conditions of the skin, eyes, lungs, and kidneys. It is also used to treat nervous system conditions (e.g., multiple sclerosis) and certain cancers (e.g., leukemia, a blood cancer). It is also used along with anti-rejection drugs to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs. Prednisone is a prescription medicine available as a tablet, a delayed-release tablet, and an oral solution.

While there is no doubt about the essential role of prednisone in treating many health disorders, taking prednisone can also lead to a range of both short and long-term side effects, as well as an increased risk of serious health complications. Please continue reading to learn more about the side effects and risks of taking prednisone tablets.

Does a short course of prednisone cause side effects?

Yes, a short course of prednisone can cause side effects. In fact, certain side effects can occur after just one dose of prednisone if the dose is high enough, meaning more than 40 mg per day. In rare cases, like with any other medications, people can develop serious allergic reactions after starting prednisone treatment. Signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction include skin rash, hives, itching, swelling of the face, lips, mouth, or throat, and difficulty breathing. 

Will a 5-day course of prednisone cause side effects?

A 5-day course of prednisone can cause short-term side effects, including changes in mood, appetite, sleep, and energy. The severity of the side effects depends on the dose of prednisone. Low doses are less likely to cause adverse effects than high doses of prednisone.

Some of the common short-term side effects of prednisone include:

  • Fluid retention causing swelling in the face, hands, ankles, and feet
  • Increased appetite 
  • Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
  • Jittery or restlessness
  • Stomach pain and indigestion 
  • Mood changes
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Increased sweating and hot flash

Other side effects that are less common include:

  • Behavioral changes like agitation, aggression, irritability, and psychotic symptoms
  • Blurred vision
  • Urinary difficulties
  • Headache
  • Fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Trouble breathing
  • Confusion
  • Delirium
  • Problems with thinking or speaking

What are the long-term side effects of prednisone?

Some side effects develop after the long-term daily use of prednisone. Again, higher doses are more likely to cause serious side effects than low-dose prednisone. Some of the long-term side effects reported by many patients who took prednisone for a long time include:

  • Weight gain
  • Osteoporosis: Bone loss (decreased bone density and increased risk of bone fractures)
  • Skin bruising 
  • Thinning of skin and hair
  • Moon face: the face can swell and get rounder
  • Muscle weakness
  • High blood sugar
  • Delayed or impaired wound healing
  • Increased risk of bacterial, viral, and fungal infections
  • Eye problems such as cataracts or glaucoma (increased eye pressure)
  • Venous thromboembolism: Blood clots - there are findings that high doses of prednisone can lead to blood clots. However, various confounding factors could account for blood clot formation. Therefore, the risks for VTE are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. 
  • Decreased growth in children 
  • Psychotic symptoms

Talk to your doctor about what to look out for and different tips if you are concerned about the long-term side effects of prednisone.

What are the side effects of a short course of steroids?

Besides the side effects mentioned above, a short course of steroids can cause other less common side effects, especially if you are on a high dose. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you understand the risks versus benefits of prednisone treatment and recommend other treatment options for your medical conditions. 

What are the dangers of short-term prednisone?

Short-term treatment with prednisone usually does not cause serious complications. However, long-term treatment can lead to potential risks of serious health complications. 

Long-term side effects of prednisone

Effects on the heart and kidneys

Prednisone can affect how the kidneys work and lead to high blood pressure or elevated blood pressure, which can affect your heart. Tell your healthcare professional if you have a history of heart disease or kidney problems before starting prednisone. 

Stomach ulcers

Prednisone can damage the lining of the stomach and cause stomach irritation and ulcers. Avoid drinking alcohol or taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen while on prednisone, as they can worsen these side effects. Call your doctor immediately if you develop stomach pain or bloody or tarry stools. Your doctor may prescribe other medications to protect your stomach if you need to take prednisone for a long time. 

Bone loss 

Taking prednisone long-term can lead to low bone density and an increased risk of bone fractures. This medication can also slow a child’s growth. Alcohol and smoking can further increase the risk of bone loss. Talk to your healthcare professional about these risks, especially if you are taking high doses or taking prednisone for a long time. 

Drug interactions

Taking prednisone with certain other drugs can lead to serious side effects. Before starting prednisone, give your doctor or pharmacist a complete list of your medications, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements, and herbal products.

Adrenal gland function

The adrenal gland produces a hormone called cortisol; prednisone and other corticosteroids mimic the effects of cortisol to reduce inflammation. Taking a synthetic steroid medicine like prednisone for a long time can lead to adrenal suppression, where the adrenal glands stop making natural hormones. Lowering the dose of prednisone suddenly or stopping the medicine can lead to dangerous health complications because the body now depends on external steroids. Your healthcare provider will tell you how to slowly decrease the prednisone dose to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Tell your doctor if you develop fever, fatigue, joint pain, or muscle pain while coming off prednisone after taking it for a few weeks.

Increased risk of infections

Prednisone suppresses the immune system. Taking this medicine for a long time can increase your risk of serious infections. Prednisone can also mask the symptoms of infections. Avoid contact with people who are sick with contagious diseases. Do not take live vaccines while on prednisone without talking to your doctor. Seek prompt medical attention for signs and symptoms of infections, such as fever, chills, fatigue, and sore throat. 

Eye problems

Long-term prednisone side effects include a higher risk of cataracts and glaucoma. The risk is higher with steroid eye drops, but if you take long-term high-dose prednisone, you still can develop eye problems. You should not take prednisone if you have herpes simplex viral infection of the eye. 

Tell your doctor if you develop eye pain, blurred vision, or vision changes. Keep all your appointments with your eye doctor during prednisone treatment.

Mood and behavior changes

Prednisone and other corticosteroid medications can cause mood and behavior changes. Tell your doctor if you develop depression, mood swings, trouble sleeping, confusion, delirium, or hallucinations while on prednisone. 

Risk to an unborn baby

Clinical trials have shown that prednisone can be harmful to an unborn baby. These effects occur especially during the first trimester. Before starting prednisone, tell your doctor if you are pregnant, could be pregnant, are planning on pregnancy, or are breastfeeding.



  1. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601102.html
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/steroids/art-20045692