Prednisolone resembles the hormone cortisol made by your adrenal glands. This steroid medication reduces inflammation and is used to treat many conditions, such as allergies, asthma and certain types of arthritis. Prednisolone 5 mg is a low-dose steroid, but side effects can still happen. Short-term effects may occur within a few days. Long-term effects typically do not develop unless you've been taking prednisolone for several months.
You may experience stomach upset within a few days of starting prednisolone, with symptoms such as heartburn, indigestion and nausea. Taking prednisolone with food may help reduce these side effects. You may experience an increased appetite and gain weight if you're eating more than usual. Other possible short-term side effects include restlessness, moodiness, difficulty sleeping, acne breakouts and increased sweating. If you have diabetes, your blood sugar levels may creep up, necessitating an adjustment in your diabetes medication.
Fluid Balance and Immune System Effects
Even at a low dose, steroid medications like prednisolone can disrupt the normal function of your body systems, especially after taking the medication for several months. Fluid balance and immune system side effects are relatively common with long-term prednisolone therapy. You may notice swelling in your feet, ankles or hands because prednisolone causes water and salt retention. This side effect can also cause elevated blood pressure. Your susceptibility to infections can also increase, as steroids suppress your immune system. Recovering from an infection if you do get sick may take longer for the same reason.
Bone, Skin and Eye Effects
Bone, skin and eye effects are relatively common with long-term prednisolone therapy. Like other steroid medications, prednisolone can weaken your bones and lead to osteoporosis, with an increased risk of fractures. You may notice skin changes as well, including skin thinning, easy bruising, slow wound healing or increased body hair. Over time, prednisolone therapy can lead to glaucoma, a condition characterized by increased pressure in your eyes. Cataract -- clouding of the lens of your eye -- is also possible but occurs less commonly than glaucoma.
Hormonal side effects are less common with long-term, low-dose prednisolone therapy. Taking a steroid medication like prednisolone can reduce the levels of the sex hormones in your body. As a result, women may develop menstrual cycle irregularities. Long-term prednisolone treatment can also cause a hormonal condition called Cushing syndrome. Possible sign and symptoms include rounding of your face, weight gain in your trunk, thinning of your arms and legs, and stretch marks on your abdomen.
Other side effects uncommonly develop with long-term prednisolone therapy. Inflammation of your pancreas, known as pancreatitis, may occur with symptoms including severe stomach and/or back pain, nausea and vomiting. Your potassium level may fall as well, with signs and symptoms such as muscle weakness or cramps and an irregular heartbeat. In some people, moodiness may progress to severe depression or losing touch with reality, even if you have no history of mental illness.
Talk with your doctor if you develop any signs or symptoms that may indicate prednisolone side effects. Seek immediate medical care if you have symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as a rash, swelling of your tongue or throat, difficulty breathing or dizziness.
Prednisolone is pregnancy category C medication, which means there may be a risk to your developing baby if you are pregnant. If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or breast-feeding, talk with your doctor before taking prednisolone.
- DailyMed: Millipred - Prednisolone Tablet
- Facts & Comparisons: Integrated Patient Education Handout- Prednisonlone
- Lexicomp: Prednisolone (Systemic)
- The Merck Manual Professional Edition: Cushing Syndrome
- Glaucoma Research Foundation: What Are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?
- Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases: Monitoring Adverse Events of Low-Dose Glucocorticoid Therapy: EULAR Recommendations for Clinical Trials and Daily Practice
- Meyler's Side Effects of Endocrine and Metabolic Drugs; Jeffrey K. Aronson