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All You Need to Know About Steroids

We have all heard about steroids as a chemical component used typically on bodybuilders and certain athletes who are looking to improve their performance.  But did you know steroids were actually invented to treat many different health conditions? Keep reading to find out all you need to know about steroids. 

What are Steroids?

Steroids are synthetic drugs or chemically made compounds that resemble human hormones. There are two different types of steroids: anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS), or  anabolic steroids for short, which are commonly misused to increase physical performance; and corticosteroids, which are in charge of mimicking the effects of cortisol hormone naturally made in the body for different purposes.  Anabolic steroids are commonly used by athletes and are known by nicknames such as; Gear, Juice, Roids, and Stackers. Corticosteroids are prescribed mostly by doctors for treating medical conditions.

How are They Taken?

Steroids are synthetic hormones made in laboratories, so they can easily be placed in several different types of presentations. Among them we can find: 

  • Orally

Taken in oral form, you can find steroids in the shape of lozenges, tablets, liquids and dissolvable tablets. When steroids USA are found in this shape, it’s usually to reduce excessive inflammation all over the body. 

  • Nasal/Inhalation

For certain health conditions it might be necessary to take steroids nasally or by inhalation. When a nasal application is needed the patient only needs to “spray” the steroids on the surface of the nose and breathe in to make it reach the whole air canal. When used with inhalers, the particles of the steroids become even smaller in order to reach the lungs and avoid unpleasant side effects in the oral cavity. 

  • By Injection

In the majority of health conditions that call for steroids as a treatment, it’s necessary for a doctor or nurse to inject it directly into the bloodstream via a hypodermic needle. Steroids are placed directly into a joint, muscle, blood canal or even the spinal area to help reduce a more localized inflammation that cannot be controlled with other treatments. 

  • Topically 

Topical steroids are one of the most common presentations for this synthetic hormone. It can be applied in a tube as gel or cream and rubbed directly over the affected area. Health experts advise always keeping the area clean and make sure to remove the old cream before applying the new one. As a rule, you can apply a drop the size of your fingertip and that amount will be more than enough. 

  • By the Eyes 

Applying steroid eye drops is pretty much like applying any other type of drops. Simply tilt your head up and gently pull your lower lid to make a small space to place the drop of medicine on it. Steroid eye drops or ointments are typically used to reduce inflammation of the eyes. 

What Type of Conditions Call for Steroid Use? 

As mentioned, there’s a type of steroid called corticosteroids which aid in several conditions throughout the body in order to bring it back to a natural state when the body isn’t able to provide big amounts of natural cortisol. 

  • Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a health condition where the small joints of the hands and feet swell up and experience severe pain. Arthritis is a progressive condition that still has no cure, but the use of steroids greatly diminishes the symptoms of arthritis.

  • Lupus

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that consists of your inmune system attacking your own tissues and organs. This condition can cause inflammation of joints, skin, kidneys, brain, heart, lungs and even blood cells. Steroids usually act by lessening the inmune system’s response and decreasing swelling and tenderness proper of the disease. 

  • Psoriasis and Severe Acne

Acne and mild to moderate psoriasis are two skin conditions that typically affect the outermost layers of the skin, causing itching, redness, scaling and inflammation. When needed, topical steroids can help soothe the discomfort and reduce the inflammation. However, steroids should be applied under medical control since they can thin the skin. 

  • Allergies and Asthma

Allergies and asthma are two respiratory health conditions that relate heavily to the mis-function of the inmune system regarding external factors. When someone experiences allergies or has an asthma attack, the air tract tends to swell up as well as the eyes, nose and even the skin. Steroids can easily reduce the inflammation and side effects of these conditions as well as hay fever.

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease

This disease is actually the mix of two health conditions: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both diseases are characterized by the inflammation of the digestive tract. Naturally, steroids are provided for this condition in order to reduce the inflammation and improve discomfort. 

Steroids Side Effects and How to Manage Them

Learn how to identify the most common steroids side effects and how to manage them safely. 

  • Weight Gain

One of the less desirable steroids side effects is weight gain, particularly targeted at the abdomen, face and the back of the neck. This usually happens because of an increased appetite, so to avoid this you might want to take some appetite-suppressant medicine and be extra careful with the food you’re eating. 

  • Osteoporosis

Especially taken for long-term treatments, cortical steroids can promote the thinning of the bones, which is called osteoporosis, and several bone fractures could occur. When a person needs a long-term steroid treatment, the doctor usually must also prescribe medicine to protect the bones and their density. 

  • Sleep Problems

Since steroids are a very delicate and strong type of medicine, it’s only natural that they disrupt your sleep patterns. It’s common to experience insomnia and heart palpitations during the night. If you’re experiencing this you can check in with your doctor so they can prescribe sleeping pills or natural remedies. 

  • Mood Swings 

Depending on the dosage and the duration of the treatment, mood swings, memory loss, behavioral issues and psychological effects can occur in a patient taking steroids. It is very important to pay attention to these conditions since the only way to manage them is by adjusting the dosage. 

  • High Blood Pressure

One of the most delicate steroids side effects is an increase in high blood pressure, which could potentially end up in heart conditions. To prevent this, it’s important to accompany the steroid treatment with heart pills, but this is in cases of a previous heart condition. 

Bonus Tips 

  • Steroids and Child Development

When steroids are applied to children and teenagers, sometimes their growth and development slows down noticeably. Asides from being checked regularly by a doctor, it’s important to take a child consuming steroids to a specialist if any side effects are present. 

  • There are Three Different Types of Steroids

There’s not only two different steroids, there’s also three different types of cortisol-related steroids: Short-acting, medium-acting and long-term-acting steroids. These are applied with the intention of providing a shorter or longer treatment for several types of health conditions. That’s why only a doctor needs to prescribe steroids.

  • You Can’t Stop Using Steroids Overnight

Particularly for long-term steroid treatments, it’s common that the adrenal glands produce less and less natural steroid hormones. If you discontinue the intake of steroids overnight you can cause a big imbalance in the body, so you’ll need to start lowering the dose gradually until you can finally stop taking them. 

That’s all you need to know about steroids. Remember that this type of medicine is very powerful and needs a doctor’s recommendation and prescription for it to be safely used on your body. 

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