Physicians prescribe prednisone, a corticosteroid medication, when your body is not making enough corticosteroids due to illness and inflammation. These conditions include arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, lupus and certain cancer types. While prednisone has many beneficial effects, it also is linked to causing weight gain in those who take the medication. Note that not all patients who take prednisone experience this side effect.
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Body Fat Redistribution
Prednisone not only causes weight gain, it can result in a phenomenon known as fat redistribution. This means fat deposits collect in unusual areas, such as the back or base of your neck, according to the Johns Hopkins Vasculitis Center. These can sometimes be mistaken for lymph nodes on the neck. If you experience this weight gain type, speak to your physician. Your physician may recommend decreasing your dosage, which can reduce the redistribution effect.
Weight gain with prednisone often is related to how long you have been taking the medication and how much you are taking, according to the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. This is because taking prednisone can increase your appetite. As you eat more over time, you gain more weight. Also, your body retains more fluid while taking prednisone, causing you to experience water retention and swelling. If you have an inflammatory condition that may restrict movement, this can mean you are inactive for a period of time, resulting in added weight gain.
You can take steps to prevent prednisone-related weight gain. Avoid foods that are high in sodium, such as fast foods, chips, prepackaged foods and canned and frozen foods because these cause you to retain water. Increased potassium intake can combat water retention. Choose foods such as baked potatoes, bananas, dates, grapefruits, milk, oranges, raisins, stewed tomatoes and tomato juice. Eating several smaller meals per day can help you feel fuller, longer. Increasing your protein intake -- foods like milk, skinless chicken, fish and soy -- also can help you feel fuller, longer.
Taking prednisone over a long period of time can decrease your adrenal gland production of steroids. This means if you cease taking or skip a dosage of prednisone, you could experience serious side effects. If you are concerned about your weight gain related to taking prednisone, talk to your physician about your medication options and concerns. Your physician also may recommend a specific diet and exercise program tailored to helping you maintain a healthy weight.