ASK THE DOCTOR: Is it safe to keep taking steroids for two years?

ASK THE DOCTOR: Is it safe to keep taking steroids for two years?

Even when the patient is on very low doses of the medication — as in your case — we must be constantly aware of the potential for side-effects. Ultrasound and Positron emission tomography (PET scanning) have been used to confirm PMR inflammation. Patients with only PMR do not have the symptoms of GCA therefore a biopsy of the temporal artery (necessary in GCA) is unnecessary in PMR. It is frequently linked to Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) occurring in 50 per cent of patients with GCA.

  • I hope the findings will improve the lot of everyone at risk of osteoporosis because of taking steroids for other conditions.
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica is an age-related condition that mainly affects people over the age of 70 (it is rare in people younger than 50 years old.) It is also more common in women than in men.
  • This involves taking oral steroids which can help to control the inflammatory process in joints and soft tissue structures.
  • The disease is usually diagnosed in patients over the age of 65.
  • The average duration of steroid treatment to treat PMR in the UK is around two years, but some patients need treatment for longer.

Because both share similarities with other conditions, they can be difficult to diagnose so it’s important to provide as much detail as possible. Being on these sorts of doses of steroid is going to turn off one’s own production of steroid. Therefore if you try to reduce from 7 mgs quickly I can guarantee the problem will flare.


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  • I identify people at high risk of fragility fractures, which includes those with polymyalgia rheumatica.
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is an inflammatory condition which causes pain and stiffness usually in the shoulders, neck, hips and thighs.
  • Treatment includes anti-inflammatory medication and exercise (5, 6).

These diseases vary greatly in the extent and severity of organ system involvement so there is a need to individualise treatment. In severe flares, high-dose oral or intravenous corticosteroids maybe required. Management should be under the guidance of a rheumatologist experienced in treating these complex disorders. Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR), is a relatively common condition
which causes stiffness and pain in muscles, tiredness and fatigue,
and raised inflammation markers on blood testing.

What is polymyalgia rheumatica?

Stopping steroids completely merely sets up the very conditions which allowed the PMR to start in the first place. In fact I often give patients a trial of steroids to test if that is the diagnosis! Not only is the pain and stiffness gone, but often they feel much better in themselves. Some patients experience swelling or stiffness of small joints in the hands and feet.

Professor Rod Hughes is a highly esteemed rheumatologist based in Chertsey and Weybridge. From his private clinics at BMI The Runnymede Hospital and Prime Health, he treats patients with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, joint injections, lupus and gout. Professor Hughes qualified from Oxford University and London Hospital Medical School, before training at Northwick Park Hospital and then on a south-west Thames rotation as a registrar. His MD focused on uncovering the cause of reactive arthritis.

Thumb osteoarthritis (OA) is degeneration of the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones that form the joint, which creates pain and stiffness. It is estimated that 0.83% of people, or 1 in every 1,200, in the UK develop the condition every year. It carries a lifetime risk of 2.4% in females and 1.7% in males (1).

Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR)

This is because it can cause permanent sight loss if not treated promptly. Don’t suddenly stop taking steroid medication unless a doctor in charge of your care tells you it’s safe to do so. Suddenly stopping treatment with steroids can make you feel very ill. This is because the condition shares many symptoms with more common health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, which need to be ruled out first.

This is when blood vessels become inflamed, cutting off the blood supply to certain areas of the body. The arteries in the temples are the most commonly affected area. People with polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) typically have pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, hips and thighs.

Higher doses taken for long periods of time are be more likely to cause side-effects than short courses of lower dose prednisone. Typical doses for Prednisone vary, and can range from 1 mg per day to 100 mg per day. Sometimes Prednisone is prescribed every other day and sometimes it is prescribed two or even three times a day. The dose may be increased during stressful events like surgery or another medical illness to mimic the body’s normal hormone response.

Your GP or pharmacist should issue you with a steroid card which shows your medication and its dosage. Corticosteroids like prednisone are very different from anabolic steroids, the risky male-hormone-related steroids that some athletes abuse for performance gains in sports and bodybuilding. Prednisone is a synthetic hormone commonly referred to as a “steroid”. Prednisone is very similar to cortisone, a natural corticosteroid hormone produced by the body’s adrenal glands.

Healthy Ageing with Exercise and Physical Vitality

Other corticosteroids, or medications that are similar to Prednisone, may be given by injection. Finally, staying informed about polymyalgia rheumatica is the best way to manage the condition effectively. Learn to listen to your body, adjust your activities accordingly – and consult your doctor as soon as possible if symptoms worsen. Your doctor may want to carry out a blood test for polymyalgia, such as erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) or C-reactive protein (CRP).

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