The use of cortisone for arthritis is common and considered very effective, but there are side effects to the medication. It can be taken orally, inhaled, given intravenously or injected directly into the problematic joint tissues. When using cortisone for arthritis, the preferred method is a local injection to treat small areas as is usually the case for osteoarthritis or systemic injections for inflammation that is more widespread as in rheumatoid arthritis.
Arthritis is the inflammation of the joints which causes symptoms such as stiffness and joint pain. There are different types of arthritis, but the most common are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder whose cause is unknown. The use of corticosteroids, a class of drug which includes cortisone, is designed to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage between the bones degenerates gradually, and the bones rub together. This happens most often in the hands, spine, knees and hips. In extreme cases of erosion where there is very little cartilage left, injecting cortisone for arthritis into the joints can be very painful but otherwise, if the procedure is done professionally, the injection should be painless with only some slight discomfort. While there are few drug interactions when cortisone is injected, care should be taken if the patient is already on anticoagulants, anticonvulsants and anti-diabetes medications as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
Injecting cortisone directly into an arthritic joint leads to a rapid reduction in pain and a restoration of function to the affected area. While the local effect is usually immediate, there is also a decrease in the inflammation of other joints around the body once the cortisone is absorbed into the blood stream and circulated. However, there are some side effects, though these are not common. There could be injury to the joint tissues especially if the cortisone is injected too often and over a long period of time. Other long-term complications include weight gain, high blood pressure, infection, bleeding and osteoporosis.
There may a lightening of the skin around the injection site, soreness and a worsening of the inflammation rather than a reduction. This is due to a post injection cortisone flare. These are usually short-term complications. The current debate concerning using cortisone for arthritis centers around concerns that cortisone is a quick fix remedy but has little to offer in terms of long term healing. Furthermore, if the drug is not controlled and taken only up to four times a year, then the chances of developing complications increase.