Wednesday, June 3, 2009


As a medical physician for over 50 years, I strive to give you the best medical information on controversial medical subjects and let you, the reader, come to your own conclusions. I have no ties to any organization, pharmaceutical, or lobby group. As an practicing medical acupuncturist since 1982, I find western medicine and medical acupuncture are very complimentary that results in astounding healing in pain management, addictions to cigarettes and food, and a host of other maladies. Let me know how we are doing. Your constructive comments are always appreciated. Click the RSS post button on the upper right hand corner if you would like to receive by email our future medical blogs.
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Cortisone, used since 1949,  is often a drug that doctors prescribe when the doctor wants to kill  the body’s immune response, or the doctor has no other treatment options.   Unwanted  dangerous consequences usually occur.   The good doctor uses as little cortisone as necessary.  Lets explore the health dangers of cortisone.


Treatments include joint injections, eye drops, ear drops, and skin creams.    Systemic steroid treatments include oral medicines (given by mouth) or medicine that is delivered directly into a vein (intravenously or IV) or muscle (intramuscularly). Systemic steroids circulate through the bloodstream to various body sites.


 Cortisone is used as a drug to treat a variety of ailments:  asthma, chronic lung disease. rheumatoid arthritis. lupus. colitis, psoriasis and allergic conditions, joint pain or inflammation (arthritis), temporal arteritis, dermatitis, allergic reactions, asthma, hepatitis, systemic lupus erythematosus, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis) and Crohn's disease treatment of skin, eye diseases (uveitis), inflammatory bowel disease, and epidurals for back pain.


Many doctors choose to ignore the dangers of cortisone, or loosely advise their patients of the dangers of the long-term use of cortisone ,while still writing you cortisone prescriptions for long periods of time.

Athletes commonly get from their doctors a single dose anti-inflammatory for an injury sustained.  It is highly effective in that immediate situation, but as the treatment is repeated over and over again, severe long term injuries occur to that athlete.

Many of you take cortisone hormones such as prednisone, for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other inflammatory and auto-immune diseases, or perhaps simply for eczema.

The most significant symptom of cortisone use is atrophy - thinning of the skin- causing the skin to become extremely fragile.  When used over large areas, a lot of cortisone is absorbed into the body causing bone demineralization( osteoporosis).  Because your  immune system is suppressed, your skin infections become worse (fungal, psoriasis, viral).  


Cortisone is classed as a glucocorticoid with cortisol and corticosterone.   It causes more sugar release from the liver,  increased liver sugar  to be made, and decreased the use of sugar to the tissues.  All  cortisone’s actions block  insulin.   Cortisol plays an important role in regulating blood sugar, energy production, inflammation, the immune system, and also healing. 

As a medicine, cortisone  reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system.   Inflammation is not infection, but is a process in which the body's white blood cells protect against bacterial and viral infections.  In certain diseases, however, the body's defense system (immune system) doesn't  work properly.  This causes inflammation to damage and work against the body's tissues, resulting in redness, warmth, swelling, and pain.

Steroids reduce the production of inflammatory chemicals to minimize tissue damage.  Steroids also reduce the activity of the immune system by blocking the white blood cells from working properly.

Cortisone makes  diabetes worse.   It causes salt to be retained, proteins to breakdown,  and blocks protein from being made.   In time, this results  in weakening of bones and wasting of muscles.

When inflammation occurs, chemicals from the body’s white blood cells are released to protect  you.   Sometimes, however, the white blood cells and inflammatory chemicals cause damage to your body’s tissues.

Cortisone blocks your immune system.  If you are susceptible to infections, colds, or allergies, new and dangerous infectious diseases can hit you and take over.


Corticosteroids are involved in a wide range of physiologic systems such as stress responses, immune response , regulation of inflammation, carbohydrate metabolism, protein catabolism, blood electrolyte levels, and behavior.

These hormones suppress inflammatory responses and mobilize the body's energy reserves, as when your computer battery dies.  This puts the body on RED ALERT and diverts all of the body's biochemical resources to immediate survival.

The body's self healing mechanisms are arrested as healing diverts energy and raw materials away from immediate survival.   The immune system is suppressed, sugar  stores in the liver, muscle tissue is mobilized to raise your blood sugar level, and your digestion and assimilation are inhibited.

Your stomach lining becomes thin and ulcerated and your thymus gland and lymphatic tissue shrink.   Reduced libido, impotence, amenorrhea (absence of the menstrual period) and infertility often result.



Proteins are stimulated and nutrients are provided by increased blood flow to your skin.   Cortisone blocks the function of skin collagen and elastin, and thus reduces  the blood flow and nutrients to the skin.  The skin is starved and cannot regenerate. 

The following skin changes occur: acne, rashes, skin thins and becomes fragile shinny and bruised,  with the skin darkening or lightening.  The cheeks become puffy,, reddish-purple stretch mark lines develop on the arms, face, groin, legs, and trunk.  There is an increase in hair growth, rapid weight gain , wounds will not heal, and increased sweating occurs.

There is rapid weight gain, particularly of the trunk and face (moon face), excess sweating, dilation of capillaries, atrophy of the skin and other mucous membranes, purple or red striae (stretch marks) on the trunk, buttocks, arms, legs or breasts, proximal muscle weakness (hips, shoulders), and  facial male-pattern hair growth.  A common sign is the growth of fat pads along the collar bone and on the back of the neck (known as a buffalo hump).   It seems the skin can look out for itself. The skin must learn to cope with infections.  If skin learning is suppressed, healing may never take place.

EYE:  Cortisone prevents eye healing by reducing the permeability in ocular capillaries.  Eye changes from cortisone include: redness and tearing, cataracts, glaucoma, infections, light sensitivity with enlarged pupils, and decreased vision.

MUSCLE: cramps, weakness,  tiredness, and pain in arms, back, hips, legs, ribs, or shoulders.

STOMACH: indigestion, ulcers, hiccups, bloody or black tarry stools, nausea, and vomiting.

MENTAL changes occur: mood swings, depression, insomnia, hallucinations, false sense of well-being, restlessness, increased sense of spinning, euphoria, frank psychosis, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.

OTHER DRUGS you may be taking as aspirin, warfarin, diuretics, ephedrine, neostigmine, and barbiturates, can cause more side effects.

BOWELS: Corticosteroids (Prednisone, prednisolone, hydrocortisone, etc.) have been used for many years in the treatment of  moderate to severe Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.   Corticosteroids, however, do not appear to be useful in maintaining remissions in these diseases.


An epidural steroid injection is an injection of a long lasting steroid combined with a local anesthetic into the epidural space.  The medication travels up and down the epidural space to coat the spinal nerves and the facet joints,  andthe spine can become weakened from the cortisone effect.

LUNGS: Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases, with an estimated 300 million cases worldwide.  Inhaled corticosteroids  form the gold standard, first-line therapy in the effective management of persistent asthma.

Other side effects from cortisone lung inhalation include: oral and esophageal yeast infections, cough. and hoarseness, husky voice, bronchospasm,  sinusitis,  GERD, and  throat inflammation.

JOINTS: There has been a considerable increase in rheumatoid arthritis and is now the leading cause of disability in the USA today.   Too many steroid injections into the same area weaken tendons and ligaments and cause thinning, weakening, and inflammation of the joint cartilage, weakening of the ligaments of the joint, and increased inflammation in the joint (arthritis).

The most serious complication from long term corticosteroid use is aseptic necrosis (death of bone tissue) of the hip and knee joints.  It occurs in 3-4%. of corticosteroid users.

OSTEOPEROSIS: Long-term use of corticosteroids, such as prednisolone or prednisone, cause osteoporosis.  Corticosteroids cause decreased calcium absorption from the intestines and increased loss of calcium from the kidneys and bones.  The bones are weakened and thinned (osteoporosis), with an increased risk of compression fractures of the ribs and spine.


Cortisone affects endocrine glands that make hormones to regulate growth, sexual development, and thyroid.   Reduced libido, lower sperm counts,  impotence, amenorrhea (absence of the menstrual period) and infertility result.   Persistent hypertension and insulin resistance occur leading to  leading to frank diabetes.


Synthetically  corticosteroids produce more potent and longer lasting anti-inflammatory effects.  than cortisol produced by your own body.    But cortisone also results in  serious complications including: increased pain, headache, temporary or permanent nerve damage, hip (bone) damage, seizures, difficulty breathing,  collapsed lungs, paralysis, and even death.

Prolonged use of corticosteroids can depress the ability of your body's adrenal glands to produce its natural cortisol.   A lack of natural cortisol (a condition called adrenal insufficiency), can last for years.   The depressed adrenal glands may not be able to produce enough cortisol to help your body handle stresses from  accidents, surgery, and infections.  It results in nausea, vomiting, and even shock.

Withdrawing corticosteroids too quickly also can produce symptoms of joint aches, fever, and malaise. Therefore, corticosteroids once started,  need to be gradually reduced rather than abruptly stopped.

NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)

The whole family of NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can cause visual side effects such as cataracts, dry eyes, and retinal hemorrhages that may result from long-term use.   These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Bayer, Aleve), flurbiprofen, ketoprofen and naproxen sodium.    Also Tylenol (acetaminophen), though not an NSAID, can be just as harmful.


The terrible effects of cortisone are well known and documented in medical and scientific circles.   The medical profession calls them adverse reactions and side effects, but another name for it would be “harmful deadly body changes.”.   Cortisone certainly has its place in modern medical practice, but its benefits are not sustained unless high doses are continued.

All drugs are dimes with two sides, having advantages and disadvantages.  Unfortunately, most doctors ignore the severe dangers of cortisone.   Most of you who take cortisone, will develop all or many of the symptoms described in this article.

I hope this knowledge gives you the power to make educated choices and decisions when your doctor wants to give you the magic 60 year old drug that will ruin your health for life.

Your comments are always appreciated.

Visit for more information on controversial medical subjects.  Sources: BOOKS:   Dining, ‘Steroids and the Eye”, Molloy,  “Skin Fitness”, Google searches


1 comment:

karin said...

I had a series of lumbar epidural shots for a hernisted disc with a mass effect on both nerves. Before receiving the shots I was on two packs of metro predisone. I also have hashimotos. The first two shots I had no severe side effect. The second two my world collapsed. I just about had every side effect possible. It started with the moon face, distened stomach, and back, especially my neck. I then got thrush and a yeast infection. My periods just don't end. I'm on blood pressure medicine and a diretic, and its still high. MY joints and muscles are in constant pain. I can't sleep and my mood swings are horible. I have no energy. when i got blood work done, it showed no cortisol levels, it was -.5. I probably could name even more symtoms. My docter never warned me about this. I feel like my life is falling apart. Its been six weeks since my last shot, nothin is gettin better. I'm getting the blood results back today from the endocrinologist, they called me in fro an emergency visit, so who know what elae is wrong. Can these syntoms disapear. I feel like its beeen forver. People should be warned about the side effects, unfortuanatey I wasn't.