How does this medication work? What will it do for me?
Prednisone belongs to the group of medications called corticosteroids. It is used to treat a number of conditions. It is more commonly used to treat allergic reactions, some skin conditions, severe asthma, and arthritis. It can also be used to treat steroid deficiency in the body, certain blood disorders, certain types of cancer, and ulcerative colitis. It works by reducing swelling, inflammation, and irritation; by suppressing the body's immune response; or by replacing steroids when production by the body is deficient.
This medication may be available under multiple brand names and/or in several different forms. Any specific brand name of this medication may not be available in all of the forms or approved for all of the conditions discussed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here.
Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are taking this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.
Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to take this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.
What form(s) does this medication come in?
Each white, round, flat-faced, bevelled-edged, scored tablet, engraved "N" and "5" on one side and plain on the other, contains 5 mg of prednisone. Nonmedicinal ingredients: colloidal silicon dioxide, lactose, magnesium stearate, pregelatinized starch, sodium lauryl sulfate, and sodium starch glycolate.
Each white, round, scored tablet, engraved "novo" and "50" on one side and plain on the other, contains 50 mg of prednisone. Nonmedicinal ingredients: colloidal silicon dioxide, lactose, magnesium stearate, pregelatinized starch, and sodium lauryl sulfate.
How should I use this medication?
The dose of prednisone varies greatly according to the condition being treated and on your circumstances. Take prednisone with food to avoid stomach upset. If this medication has been taken for extended periods, do not stop taking it without talking with your doctor. When this medication is stopped, the dose should be reduced gradually according to your doctor's instructions.
Many things can affect the dose of medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are taking the medication without consulting your doctor.
It is important to take this medication regularly, exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Do not stop taking this medication without first talking with your doctor. If you miss a dose, take it as soon as possible and continue with your regular schedule. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one. If you are not sure what to do after missing a dose, contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
Store this medication at room temperature and keep it out of the reach of children.
Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.
Who should NOT take this medication?
Do not take this medication if you:
- are allergic to prednisone or any ingredients of this medication
- have an internal fungal infection
- will be given a live virus vaccine (e.g., measles, mumps, rubella, yellow fever, BCG) and are taking large immunosuppressive doses of prednisone
- have herpes simplex of the eye, except for short-term or emergency treatment of allergic-type reactions
- have measles or chickenpox, except for short-term or emergency treatment of allergic-type reactions
- have peptic ulcers (stomach ulcers)
- have diverticulitis
- have undiagnosed inflammation of the digestive system (non-specific colitis)
- have a viral or bacterial infection that is not controlled by medications (anti-infectives)
What side effects are possible with this medication?
Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.
The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.
The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.
Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.
- changed sense of taste
- increased appetite
- increased sweating
- irregular menstrual periods
- reddish-purple lines on arms, face, groin, legs, or trunk
- thin, shiny skin
- thinning hair
- trouble sleeping
- unusual increase in hair growth
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- weight gain
Although most of the side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not seek medical attention.
Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:
- decreased or blurred vision
- eye pain
- false sense of well-being
- filling or rounding out of the face
- increased blood pressure
- irregular heartbeat
- mood or behaviour changes (e.g., aggression, rage, anxiety or excitation)
- muscle weakness
- pain in arms, back, hips, legs, ribs, or shoulders
- skin rash
- slowed growth (for children)
- fluid retention (e.g., rapid weight gain, swelling of feet or lower legs)
- symptoms of depression (e.g., poor concentration, changes in weight, changes in sleep, decreased interest in activities, thoughts of suicide)
- symptoms of high blood sugar (e.g., frequent urination, increased thirst, excessive eating, unexplained weight loss, poor wound healing, infections, fruity breath odour)
- symptoms of a stomach ulcer (e.g., persistent abdominal or stomach pain or burning, bloody or black, tarry stools)
- symptoms of tuberculosis reactivation (e.g., coughing blood, chest pain)
- unusual bruising
- wounds that heal slowly
Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:
- symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, e.g.:
- difficulty breathing
- swelling of the face, mouth, tongue, or throat
Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.
Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?
Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.
Electrolytes and fluid: If you take large doses of prednisone, you may need to restrict your salt intake and take potassium supplements. Check with your doctor about whether you need any supplements while you are on this medication. You may also retain extra fluid that may cause an increase in your blood pressure. Your doctor will monitor for these effects by checking your blood pressure and doing blood tests to check your electrolyte levels.
Eye problems: Prolonged use of prednisone may cause glaucoma with possible damage to the optic nerves or it may produce cataracts. It may also increase the risk of eye infections due to fungi or viruses. Report any change in vision, eye pain, eye irritation, redness, or discharge to your doctor as soon as possible.
High blood sugar: Prednisone can cause high blood sugar. Your doctor may check your blood sugar levels with blood tests while you are taking this medication. If you have diabetes, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed. If you experience increased thirst and urination while taking this medication, contact your doctor.
Infections: This medication may mask some signs of infection, and new infections may appear during their use. Contact your doctor if you notice any symptoms of an infection (e.g., fever, chills, cough, sore throat), or if you are in contact with someone who has measles or chickenpox.
Kidney problems: Prednisone may be used in the treatment of specific kidney problems. It may also cause increased fluid retention and electrolyte changes, affecting the kidney. If you have kidney problems or reduced kidney function, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.
Liver function: Liver disease or reduced liver function may cause this medication to build up in the body, causing side effects. If you have liver problems, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.
Medical treatment: Inform all doctors that you go to that you are taking this medication.
Mental health: Prednisone, like other corticosteroids, may cause behaviour and personality changes and mood swings. These reactions are most likely to occur when you first start taking this medication. If you experience these symptoms, or notice them in a family member who is taking this medication, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Osteoporosis: This medication can increase the risk of osteoporosis (brittle bones). Talk to your doctor about ways to help prevent osteoporosis. Your doctor will monitor your bone density if you take this medication for a long period of time.
Stomach and intestinal problems: If you have or have had a stomach or intestinal ulcer, or have ulcerative colitis, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.
Stopping medication: Do not stop this medication without consulting your doctor. When this medication is stopped after having taken it for a prolonged period, the dose should be reduced slowly as prescribed by your doctor. Suddenly stopping prednisone following prolonged treatment may result in symptoms of corticosteroid withdrawal syndrome including nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, muscle and joint pain, and a general feeling of being unwell.
Unusual stress: If you experience any unusual physical stress (e.g., trauma, surgery), your doctor may increase your dose of prednisone during and after the event.
Vaccination: If you are taking this medication, vaccines may not be as effective and you may be more likely to experience certain side effects. Therefore, vaccines are usually not recommended while you are taking prednisone, especially when high doses are used.
Pregnancy: This medication should not be used during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.
Breast-feeding: This medication passes into breast milk. If you are a breast-feeding mother and are taking prednisone, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding . If you take high doses of prednisone, your doctor may advise you not to breast-feed.
Children: Since prednisone can slow the growth and development of infants and children, it should not be taken for prolonged periods of time if at all possible. Growth and development will be closely monitored by your child's doctor.
What other drugs could interact with this medication?
There may be an interaction between prednisone and any of the following:
- amphotericin B
- androgens (e.g., methyltestosterone, nandrolone, testosterone)
- antacids (e.g., aluminum hydroxide, calcium carbonate, magnesium hydroxide)
- anticholinesterase medications (e.g., neostigmine, pyridostigmine)
- "azole" antifungals (e.g., itraconazole, ketoconazole, voriconazole)
- barbiturates (e.g., phenobarbital)
- diabetes medications (e.g., chlorpropamide, glipizide, glyburide, insulin, metformin, nateglinide, rosiglitazone, saxagliptin)
- diuretics (water pills; e.g., furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide)
- estrogens (e.g., conjugated estrogen, estradiol, ethinyl estradiol; including estrogen-containing birth control pills)
- ethacrynic acid
- HIV protease inhibitors (atazanavir, darunavir, lopinavir, ritonavir)
- macrolide antibiotics (e.g., clarithromycin, erythromycin)
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs; e.g., diclofenac, ibuprofen, ketorolac, naproxen)
- quinolone antibiotics (e.g., ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin, ofloxacin)
- salicylates (e.g., ASA)
- sodium phenylbutyrate
- vaccines or toxoids (e.g., BCG, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella)
If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:
- stop taking one of the medications,
- change one of the medications to another,
- change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
- leave everything as is.
An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.
Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.