Steroids save lives
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Steroids save lives

Steroids save lives

Don’t be afraid of these medicines. Used correctly they are the right treatment for all sorts of medical problems, and they can transform and save lives

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Steroids do not deserve such bad press

Unfortunately the misuse of anabolic steroids by unscrupulous athletes and body builders has given steroids a bad name and causes endless anxiety to individuals who are prescribed steroid medicines.

Steroids are naturally occurring polycyclic hydrocarbons which come in many guises. Cholesterol is a type of steroid which is found in numerous foods. Two types of steroid hormone are made by the adrenal glands. These are mineralocorticoids which control levels of sodium in the body and glucocorticoids which regulate our ability to respond to physically challenging situations, such as severe infection and danger. We cannot survive without these hormones. The male and female hormones testosterone and oestrogen are types of steroid.

The development of steroids for medical use only began in the 1950s and was a massive advance. They are now used to treat lots of different problems:

Generally they are used to reduce harmful immune responses, such as with hay fever, asthma and ulcerative colitis. They reduce swelling and inflammation such as with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or acute tendonitis. There are some very specific uses, such as intravenous dexamethasone to quickly reduce pressure inside the skull when a brain tumour, or a head injury, threatens to push the brain stem into a narrow space at the top of the neck (coning). Giving steroids by injection to women who are about to have their baby prematurely, before the baby’s lungs are mature, helps the baby to breathe air more easily.

Important things to remember

Symptoms

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