Corticosteroids are a popular medication used in the treatment of many diseases, especially autoimmune conditions. They can be helpful in reducing flare-ups of symptoms or when used long-term when inflammation cannot be controlled with other medications. A combination of lifestyle modifications and working with your doctor to try different dosing schedules can help mitigate some of your concerns about using corticosteroids.
Understand Dosing Philosophies
There are several dosing philosophies regarding corticosteroid use and knowing this information can open a dialogue with your doctor. Most doctors prefer to integrate a "burst" dosing method, by which they prescribe you a higher dose of corticosteroids for a short duration without titrating off the medication. Since you will only take the medication for approximately five days at a higher dose, you are unlikely to experience any long-term side effects and adrenal insufficiency is not a concern. You should continue to notice a decrease in pain and inflammation for several days after you have stopped taking a higher dose.
If a long-term corticosteroid regimen is better for symptom control, ask your doctor about alternate ways you can take your medication while maintaining the benefits. For example, cycling between days of high doses and periods of no medication might be a better option than lengthy periods of continuous use.
Make Positive Lifestyle Changes
If you must use corticosteroids long-term, integrating positive lifestyle changes can help ease your mind about common side effects. A major concern is the possibility of weight gain and specific fat deposits associated with long-term use. Since everyone's experience will be different, you should not feel compelled to avoid using steroids long-term if they are necessary. Try implementing a high protein, low carbohydrate diet with minimal salt. Not only does this reduce the number of calories you may eat daily, which can reduce weight gain, but keeping your salt intake low will also help prevent the bloating some people experience.
Some people feel like a new person when they integrate corticosteroids into their pain management plan, which can give them the opportunity to be active. If you feel less pain and inflammation with corticosteroids, take advantage of the opportunity to be more active. Even small amounts of activity, such as walking or swimming, can help mitigate weight gain.
Keep A Check On Your Numbers
It can be comforting to keep a check on both your blood glucose and blood pressure at home if you are on a long-term dose of corticosteroids. Unless you already have hypertension or diabetes, weekly checks to make sure your numbers are within the appropriate range should be sufficient. If you currently have hypertension or diabetes, it is imperative to be consistent with your chronic disease management plan. Additionally, you may want to monitor your numbers more often to promptly detect unusual spikes in either your blood pressure or blood glucose.
Osteoporosis and loss of protein in the muscles are another concern you may be thinking about. To help offset any of these problems associated with long-term corticosteroid use, integrate supplements into your diet. Make sure you are taking supplements containing your recommended daily allowance of both calcium and vitamin D, which varies depending on your age and gender.
Of course, supplements should not be your only way of incorporating these nutrients. Since you are aiming to improve your lifestyle, find low-calorie options that are fortified with these nutrients, such as leafy greens and low-fat dairy options. Other trace minerals are also important to maintain your bone density, such as magnesium and phosphorous. You can also incorporate meal replacements or homemade smoothies into your daily routine to help boost your intake of nutrients for strong bones and added protein. Ask your doctor about bone scans and how often they are appropriate to help monitor your bone density.
For many people with certain types of chronic pain, incorporation of corticosteroids can be essential for gaining control over pain and inflammation and reducing the use of narcotic pain relievers. When you are concerned about the use of corticosteroids entirely or using them long-term, trying different dosing schedules and lifestyle modifications can minimize any adverse effects.
For more information on pain management, check out a company like Potter's House Apothecary, Inc.