In the past decade, patients with severe forms of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) have been treated with corticosteroids in addition to antibiotics, with the expectation that steroids would reduce the length of hospitalization and improve patient outcome. However, clinical trials have provided conflicting results regarding steroid use and these expectations have not been fulfilled.
Some observational studies showed benefit in patients — particularly, it reduced risk of serious complications and the need for ventilators.
What Are Corticosteroids
Steroids are a class of synthetic hormones that are similar to the hormones released by your adrenal glands. They have the same job as hormones in the body: to regulate functions such as inflammation and cell growth. These steroids can be taken as pills or injected into the body.
Your body uses hormones to make your hair grow and skin look smooth and healthy. Some athletes take steroids to increase their strength and muscle mass. It may also be used to treat certain types of anemia or to build up bone mass in people who have low levels of calcium. It can even be used for weight loss.
Corticosteroids are the most commonly prescribed drug for treatment of asthma, arthritis, and autoimmune disorders. They contain the hormone cortisol, which helps the body make other hormones and reduces inflammation. Cortisol can also be used to treat certain medical conditions such as asthma and inflammatory bowel disease. Indeed, corticosteroids can even be used to control or reduce symptoms of severe illness such as cancer.
Injections of cortisol can also be given to prevent organ rejection in people who have received transplants or are receiving cancer therapy.
Side Effects of Steroids For Pneumonia?
Side effects of corticosteroids vary depending on the type. The most common include changes in mood or behavior, headache, nausea, vomiting, sleep problems, and weight gain. It is important to note that each person experiences a different reaction to any drug. If you experience more than one side effect, talk to your doctor to find a dose that works best for you.
Prednisone, a corticosteroid used to treat a number of conditions, including asthma, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, carries risks that must be considered. These risks include high blood pressure, increased risk of infections, changes in mood and behavior, and increased risk of depression.
The side effects of these steroids for pneumonia may last for weeks or months after stopping the medication. Your doctor may recommend a dose change or a lower dose. If your symptoms worsen, you may need to take the medicine again.
Types of Corticosteroids?
Corticosteroids can come in many forms, including tablet, pill, injection, nasal spray, or gels and lotions. The generic forms of corticosteroids are:
Depending on the problem a doctor will prescribe different forms of steroids. They can prescribe a cream, lotion, or gel to treat skin problems.
When Should I Take Corticosteroids?
Your doctor will usually prescribe corticosteroids for short-term use. The most common use is for short-term treatment of an allergic reaction or an acute infection. Your doctor may prescribe a short course of steroids to treat your symptoms or to prevent symptoms from returning.
Some conditions may require long-term use of corticosteroids. These include asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Can Steroids Be Used To Treat Pneumonia?
Steroids are drugs that can be used to treat inflammation and swelling. As a matter of fact, they were first developed as an anti-inflammatory and were later used to stimulate the growth of muscle cells. When used in the treatment of pneumonia, steroids increase the amount of oxygen in the blood by causing more red blood cells and/or white blood cells to be made and transported to the lungs. It also increases the ability of these cells to fight against infection. Steroids help clear lung infections and prevent future infections from developing.
Recent studies have indeed shown that corticosteroids can be used to treat pneumonia. Indeed, one study that involved 2,000 patients hospitalized for pneumonia showed that sufferers were able to reduce their risk of serious complications after using corticosteroids. Not only that, corticosteroids also reduced the need for ventilators among pneumonia patients.
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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Pneumonia
Pneumonia is a common and serious disease that affects people of all ages. Symptoms include a productive cough, fever, chills, aches, shortness of breath and chest pains. People who have trouble breathing and have low oxygen levels in their blood may need medical help immediately. Pneumonia can also spread throughout the body, which may lead to other life-threatening problems such as organ failure or sepsis.
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a lung condition characterized by chronic inflammation of the lungs that causes airflow obstruction and often leads to coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. People with COPD are more vulnerable to pneumonia because of their weakened airways and weaker immune systems.
COPD is a progressive disease that can be treated to relieve symptoms and to help a patient live a better quality of life. There is no cure for COPD, but treatments do exist to help patients control the condition and slow its progression.
Bronchodilators are the most common form of COPD treatment. When bronchodilators fail to control a patient’s symptoms, a doctor may prescribe steroid, or corticosteroid, treatments to suppress inflammation in the lungs and make it easier for the patient to breathe.
How Do Steroids Work To Treat COPD?
There are different types of steroids used for COPD, which are designed to reduce inflammation. One type of medication is called a “bronchodilator” that will open up your airways, allowing more oxygen to flow into your lungs. The other class of medications is known as corticosteroids or “glucocorticoids.” These are anti-inflammatory medications, but they have different effects on the body. Corticosteroids can be inhaled or injected into the body, or given in pills that the patient takes daily.
Corticosteroids help the lungs recover from an inflammatory response. In people with severe symptoms, inhaled steroids for pneumonia are commonly used to reduce inflammation in the airways and improve lung function. Although inhaled corticosteroids are very helpful, they come with a cost: they can also have unpleasant side effects. For example, inhaled corticosteroids can cause dryness of the mouth and throat. This makes them less effective for treating symptoms such as a persistent cough or wheezing.
The two main types of steroids prescribed for severe COPD include inhaled steroids, which are taken by mouth, and oral prednisone, which is a type of corticosteroid. Inhaled steroids reduce airway inflammation and inflammation-associated symptoms, including shortness of breath. Oral steroids are effective at reducing the symptoms of COPD but do not directly address airway inflammation.
Corticosteroids are useful in suppressing the immune system and reducing inflammation. When used as an acute treatment, they can be effective for a variety of conditions, particularly when quick treatment is needed.
Corticosteroid therapy, including short-term and long-term use, can have side effects, so they should only be used in cases where there are no other viable options.
In any case, corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory medications, and studies indicate that they can be another tool against pneumonia by addressing the inflammation associated with the disease. They can also benefit patients with COPD and asthma, two medical conditions that often lead to the development of pneumonia.