Are Corticosteroids Safe for Long-term Use?

When you are suffering from the swelling and inflammation inherent in a sinus condition, including seasonal allergies, you’ll probably find yourself turning to over-the-counter decongestants and/or antihistamines for relief. However, if those don’t do the trick, and they often don’t, you’re going to need to see a doctor for something a little stronger. That something is usually a corticosteroid.

Available only by prescription, corticosteroids, also known as steroids, come in many forms, but are most commonly prescribed as a nose spray when treating sinusitis. Common brands of nasal corticosteroid are Beconase, Flonase, Nasocort, Nasonex, and Rhinocort, and you may also see it in its generic form, fluticasone. These are not the same type of steroids that athletes use, so if you’re looking to bulk up on muscle by relying on a corticosteroid and avoiding the gym, you’re out of luck.

corticosteroid is a man-made substance designed to mimic the hormone cortisol, which is a natural histamine blocker produced by the body. Histamine is what your body releases when you are exposed to an allergen. It is what causes you to sneeze and have a runny nose and itchy eyes. Corticosteroids also decrease the inflammation that occurs when allergens and mucus build up in your sinus cavity, and this combination of effects makes the compound a highly successful treatment for sinus conditions.

However, for as much good as corticosteroids can do, they aren’t without their problems.

Because oral corticosteroids affect the entire body rather than just the problem area, they pose a greater risk than inhaled ones. Short-term side effects include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Increased hunger
  • Behavior changes, trouble sleeping, irritability
  • Increased risk of pneumonia, thrush (white coating in the mouth), and other infections
  • Weight gain, salt and water retention
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased fat on the face (rounded face), upper back, and belly
  • Stretch marks on the skin, acne, poor wound healing, increased and unusual hair growth

Long-term use (three months or longer) presents additional risks:

  • All short-term side effects
  • Poor growth in children (can be severe)
  • Brittle bones (bones break easily, problems with hips and shoulder joints)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Diabetes
  • Eye problems

Nasal corticosteroids also have side effects. These include:

  • Dryness, burning, or stinging in the nasal passage
  • Sneezing
  • Throat irritation
  • Headaches and nosebleed (uncommon, but report these to your doctor right away).
  • Infection
  • Perforation (hole or crack) in nasal passages

When it comes to corticosteroid usage, you have to weigh the pros of relief versus the cons of side effects. If you only suffer from sinusitis occasionally, and don’t have seasonal allergies, corticosteroids may be perfectly appropriate. However, if you are experiencing chronic issues, there is another option.

CT Sinus Center offers state-of-the-art, patient-centered treatment that can alleviate your sinus inflammation without any side effects. We are the industry leaders in permanent relief, including an in-office procedure called balloon sinus dilation that, in just under an hour, can safely open and drain your sinus cavity for the long-term. And by long term, we mean permanently.

Schedule an appointment today by calling (860) BALLOON to see what our expert physicians can do for you. For more information on sinus conditions and treatments, visit our website and blog.

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Waterbury, CT 06708
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