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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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The form of steroids we use are called corticosteroids. They are a man-made version of hormones normally produced by the adrenal glands. They are effective at reducing inflammation and can help us to treat auto-immune conditions. Steroids also reduce the activity of the immune system - the body's natural defence against illness and infection.

How are they given?

There are several ways to give steroids:

In mild arthritis, intra-articular steroids are the main form of drug treatment and are used in association with physical therapies. Otherwise we use steroids to treat inflammation quickly while we wait for other drugs called disease modifying drugs to work. This is called bridging.

In the short term (days to weeks) they are very effective at treating inflammation and quickly control the swelling, pain and stiffness it causes.

Used for longer periods (weeks to months), side effects may become a problem so we limit their use to the lowest effective dose.

Prolonged use (over many months) is unavoidable in some diseases because steroids are the main or only form of effective treatment.

Side effects

We always try to avoid side effects and use the lowest total dose of steroids possible.

Unfortunately side effects (including weight gain) may occur with prolonged use, but happily most disappear once the steroids are stopped. This is equally true for changes in mood, sleep and appetite.

For further information on steriods in available on the NHS website - please use the link below:

If you have any questions about your medication we can be contacted via our advice line.