Steroids are a type of hormone produced by the body to contribute to cell function, muscle and tissue building, and stress and growth regulation. Corticosteroids are a type of manufactured prescription drug product given to mimic or enhance the effects of the body's natural steroids. Steroids are given to reduce swelling in many conditions and body areas, to reduce cell reactions to stressful conditions, and to reduce immune system hyperactivity. Some common examples are prednisone and hydrocortisone.
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Even short-term (i.e., less than one month) use of steroids can accentuate the risk of high blood pressure and increased pressure in the eye, or glaucoma, especially in people who are already at risk for these diseases. Steroids increase fluid levels in the body and affect the size of blood vessels through anti-inflammatory actions; both of these effects may contribute to high blood pressure and glaucoma risks.
Steroid use even for less than one month may cause increased bloating and fluid retention. In addition, increased fat retention, especially in the stomach, neck and facial areas, is possible. Combined with the added side effect of increased appetite, both of these effects can result in increased weight gain with short-term steroid use.
Steroid use can cause hormonal changes in addition to the physical side effects. One result is that psychological side effects are also possible with short-term steroid use. Some common examples of these side effects are trouble sleeping, energy changes (either reduced energy or hyperactivity) and noticeable mood changes.