When a person with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) has an acute symptom flare-up, they are often prescribed a short course of high-dose steroids, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS). Typically, steroids are given intravenously or orally for three to five days.
“High-dose steroids are used to speed recovery” after an MS relapse, says Matthew McCoyd, MD, an associate professor and residency program director of neurology at the Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois.
The steroids used for MS flares are known as corticosteroids, which mimic natural hormones produced in the adrenal gland and which interrupt inflammation.
“Because of long-term complications, like bruising, skin changes, and bone changes, we only use them for short periods, and it is rare to use them more than once or twice a year,” Dr. McCoyd says.
But even in the short term, steroids can have side effects — although, says McCoyd, once you start to taper the drug, most side effects will subside.
“In general, steroids are very well tolerated,” says Tamara B. Kaplan, MD, a clinician at Brigham Multiple Sclerosis Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “And these side effects should never deter you from getting proper treatment.”
However, it helps to know what you may be in for, so here are six possible side effects to be aware of: