Glossary of Medical Terms


Corticosteroid medications are similar to natural hormones produced in the body that help control many necessary functions, including blood sugar and salt (electrolyte) levels, the body's water balance, and immune system function. Corticosteroid medications are often used to treat diseases that cause inflammation, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Common prescription corticosteroids include prednisone, dexamethasone, and hydrocortisone.

Long-term use of corticosteroids has many side effects, including weight gain, stomach ulcers, sleeping difficulties, increased blood pressure, increased blood sugar (glucose), delayed wound healing, and a reduced ability to fight infection. Other problems associated with corticosteroid use include cataract formation, decreased blood flow to the hip joint that causes deterioration of the joint (aseptic necrosis or avascular necrosis), and osteoporosis. 

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