What are Oral Steroids?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Most pharmacies have oral steroid formulations in stock for customers with prescriptions.
Most pharmacies have oral steroid formulations in stock for customers with prescriptions.

Oral steroids are steroids provided in a formulation which is intended to be taken orally, usually in the form of pills although syrups are also available. There are a number of reasons why a doctor may prescribe oral steroids and most pharmacies have these formulations available for the purpose of filling prescriptions. As with any medication, it is important to receive adequate instruction in why oral steroids are being prescribed, how they should be used, and which signs of complications to watch out for so that any problems can be reported quickly.

Oral steroids may cause weight gain.
Oral steroids may cause weight gain.

Taking medications orally can be easier than using other delivery methods, especially for long term use. Another advantage of oral steroids is that they act fast and enter the system very quickly. The dosage is also easy to adjust so that the needs of a patient can be met, and the drugs are easy to handle.

In medical practice, a common reason to use oral steroids is to treat asthma. Patients with chronic pulmonary conditions may take periodic steroid “bursts” to reduce inflammation so that they can breathe more easily. Steroids can also be prescribed to address inflammation in other areas of the body. High doses are often used at first to address the problem quickly, and then the dose is tapered off so that the patient can be weaned from the drugs.

Oral steroids may cause irritability.
Oral steroids may cause irritability.

People who wish to take steroids for performance enhancement reasons may also take oral steroids. They prefer these drugs because they act quickly and they also metabolize rapidly, reducing the risk that they will be identified on a doping test. While this is not ethical, it certainly does not stop some athletes who wish to get an edge on their competition and are willing to run the risk.

Oral steroids are commonly used to treat asthma.
Oral steroids are commonly used to treat asthma.

Steroids, including orally available forms, come with side effects, especially if the drugs are used for an extended period of time. Oral steroids can cause weight gain, changes in appetite, irritability, fluid retention, weight gain, glaucoma, high blood pressure, susceptibility to infections, and bone loss. Patients who need to take oral steroids in the long term should be monitored carefully so that side effects can be identified and addressed.

Side effects of oral steroids may include high blood pressure.
Side effects of oral steroids may include high blood pressure.

Specific directions for storage and administration of oral steroids vary. As a general rule, the drugs should be kept in a cool dry place out of the reach of children and pets, ideally in their original container. The container should be clearly labeled with the medication, the dosage, and the expiration date.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • Most pharmacies have oral steroid formulations in stock for customers with prescriptions.
      By: emiliau
      Most pharmacies have oral steroid formulations in stock for customers with prescriptions.
    • Oral steroids may cause weight gain.
      By: jedi-master
      Oral steroids may cause weight gain.
    • Oral steroids may cause irritability.
      By: pressmaster
      Oral steroids may cause irritability.
    • Oral steroids are commonly used to treat asthma.
      By: uwimages
      Oral steroids are commonly used to treat asthma.
    • Side effects of oral steroids may include high blood pressure.
      By: Rido
      Side effects of oral steroids may include high blood pressure.
    • Oral steroids used over an extended period of time may lead to glaucoma.
      By: joshya
      Oral steroids used over an extended period of time may lead to glaucoma.
    • Oral steroids side effects may include irritability.
      By: katrin_timoff
      Oral steroids side effects may include irritability.
    • Oral steroids should come with dosing instructions as well as how to spot signs of complications.
      By: diego cervo
      Oral steroids should come with dosing instructions as well as how to spot signs of complications.