Long-Term Effects of Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are used to treat many different medical conditions, from rheumatoid arthritis, to allergies, to lupus and many more.  The prescribed medicines include: prednisone (Deltasone, Sterapred, etc.), methylprednisolone (Medrol), prednisolone (Prelone, Pediapred), dexamethasone (Decadron, Hexadrol), and hydrocortisone (Acticort, Cortef).

Some concerns parents have over long-term side effects of corticosteroids include:

  • uclers / gastrointestinal bleeding
  • osteoperosis
  • increase risk of heart disease
  • decrease in bone density
  • increased risk of infections
  • thin skin, bruise easily, slower healing of wounds

These are just some of the concerns, please visit the resources section of this page for more information.

Because of the wide variety of medical conditions that corticosteroids treat, it is very important that any conversations with your medical provider include understanding the long-term effects.  Remember that long-term effects of drugs are relevant to prescription dose and length of treatment, and MedShadow encourages discussions that give you enough information to make an educated decision about your healthcare.  Effects, both positive and negative, have long lasting repercussions on our quality of life.


Studies on corticosteroids tend to lean toward the extreme use, rather than the average use.  For example, some studies look at corticosteroids for extreme and rarer cases of eczema.  This makes it harder to research what long-term studies are out there on steroid use.  To complicate things further, corticosteroids can be oral, topical, injected, or inhaled, and this dramatically changes the benefits and risks, and in turn the short-term and long-term effects.  Speak with your doctor and pharmacist on what, if any, long-term studies out there are relevant to your own medical treatment.

Here are some studies, but we encourage you to look at our Organizations and Other Resources section below to complement your own search for more information.

Effect of long-term corticosteroid use on bone mineral density in children

In a study of children with a median age of 7 and with mild to moderate asthma, inhaled corticosteroids over a period of years slightly reduced the bone density of boys, but not girls.

Study of Asthma and Steroid Study (STAN), due May 2014

This study is not completed and no results are released, but keep it on your radar.  Results due May 2014, this study looks at whether the use of nasal steroids improves allergy control in both children and adults.

There are also studies here on the short and long-term use of topical steroids for eczema.

Articles We Like

Common Medicines Should Mimic Timing of Body’s Natural Systems to Prevent Side-Effects (2/18/14)

“Debilitating side effects associated with prescription medication for some of today’s most common conditions could be eradicated if they mimicked the body’s natural hormone secretion cycles, a new report has said.” – Science Codex

Steroid Shots for Tennis Elbow Miss the Mark: Study (2/5/13)

and With Elbows, Cortisone Shots May Hurt More Than Help (2/6/13)

A corticosteroid shot and physical therapy have no long term benefits in the treatment of “tennis elbow”, a new study (Australia) confirms.

Asthma and Arthritis Medications are Drug Muggers (1/17/13)

A pharmacist explores the ways that different drugs “mug” the body of important nutrients.

Researchers Discover Genetic Bias for Eczema, New Avenue to Therapies (12/26/12)


University of Oregon study recently released discovered an “underlying genetic cause of atopic dermatitis”, opening up avenues to alternative treatments that may bypass the use of topical steroids.

Organizations and other resources

Why are steroids used in medicine?

Access Science by McGraw Hill answers this question from a scientific perspective, but succinctly lays out the breadth of uses of different steroids in medicines.

Asthma Health Center

WebMD has a great page with information on use of inhaled corticosteroids for the long-term control of asthma.

How to Reduce Corticosteroid Side Effects

The Hospital for Special Surgery (Weill Cornell Medical College) helps you understand how to reduce the the side effects of different corticosteroids.


Last updated: March 13, 2014