Prednisone: Good Guy - Bad Guy
Prednisone is a synthetic hormone similar to hydrocortisone, a natural hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Prednisone belongs to a large group of similar drugs known as corticosteroids, which are prescribed for literally hundreds of conditions.
With organ transplants, prednisone stops the body's normal inflammatory reaction to foreign tissue and infection. It is usually given in tablet form but can be given intravenously when necessary, such as when someone is too sick to swallow a pill. The drug usually is used in combination with other agents to suppress the immune response. It acts by decreasing swelling and inflammation of tissues.
The downside with prednisone is its many side effects. The higher the dose or the more times you have been treated for rejection, the more side effects. As the dose is gradually reduces, side effects diminish. In most cases, prednisone can be reduced to a maintenance level by the end of about one year after transplantation. Also, use of combinations of drugs has allowed physicians to prescribe lower doses of prednisone than in the past.
Regardless of complications, never stop taking prednisone unless you are instructed to do so by your transplant team. Many problems can occur if prednisone is stopped suddenly. (See "Why Can't Prednisone Be Discontinued Suddenly?" for more information.)
The most commonly encountered side effects are:
Sodium retention Increased appetite Increased fat deposits Increased acid in your stomach Increased sweating, especially at night Increased hair growth Acne on the face, back, and chest Bone and muscle problems Growth problems in children Eye problems Increased sugar in the blood Increased sensitivity to the sun Delayed wound healing Decreased ability to fight infection Thrush (Candida) growth in the mouth