Prednisone is a medication in the corticosteroid class of drugs. These medications can be used to treat a variety of different health problems. Taking high doses of prednisone or taking prednisone for a long period of time can cause side effects, including an increase in the amount of LDL cholesterol in your blood. This can force you to discontinue the prednisone or take steps to lower your cholesterol.
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Corticosteroids are hormones that are naturally produced by your body to control your immune system, bone formation, metabolism and your response to stress. If you don't make enough corticosteroids, you may need to take medications such as prednisone to replace the hormone deficiency. Corticosteroids also can block inflammation. This means that prednisone can also be used to treat conditions caused by intense inflammation, such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, severe allergic reactions and lupus, PubMed Health explains.
Prednisone and Cholesterol
One of the side effects of taking prednisone and other corticosteroids is that they can affect the body's cholesterol and blood glucose levels. In fact, if you have to take large doses of corticosteroids or take corticosteroids for a long period of time, you can develop a condition known as Cushing's syndrome. Cushing's syndrome can cause you to gain body fat, especially in your abdomen and face, and can also lead to high LDL cholesterol levels, MedlinePlus reports.
Why LDL Matters
A large increase in your LDL cholesterol levels can be dangerous. LDL cholesterol, also known as low-density lipoprotein, is the "bad" form of cholesterol. When you have high LDL levels, you have an increased risk of developing atherosclerosis, a condition in which cholesterol builds up in the walls of the arteries. This can increase your blood pressure and block the arteries that supply blood to your heart and brain, increasing your risk of developing a heart attack or a stroke.
If your LDL levels begin to rise after taking prednisone, you will need to weigh the risks and benefits of continuing the prednisone. If you must keep taking the medication, you can try to switch to lower doses or different forms of corticosteroids to help minimize the side effects, the Mayo Clinic website explains. You can also make lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and eating less cholesterol, to help counteract the increases in your LDL levels. Medications that lower your LDL levels may also be beneficial.