Steroids, Bruising, and Bones
Last updated: March 2022
There is a saying, 'The older we get the more pill we take.' I am sure this applies even more for us with a chronic health problem.
Other health problems
Many with COPD also have other health problems that include hypertension, swollen ankles, atrial fibrillation (AF), and Gerd. At the severe and above stages of COPD, some are part and parcel of living with a lung condition such as COPD. Each add to the number of medications to take each day. But none raise as much concern, or have such a range of side effects as the oral steroid, Prednisolone, which is similar to prednisone.
I am fortunate
I am fortunate as despite taking 10mg Prednisolone a day to keep on top of inflammation I have no side effects. When I was in my 20's I had Sarcoidosis. That led to being treated with a high dose of steroids for many years. This did lead to some weight gain, which I later lost, but nothing else. For me Prednisolone did a good job and enabled me to breathe a lot easier than I otherwise would. For many others, it is a different story with a large range of side effects. Some become hyperactive, while others cannot sleep while taking steroids.
Still more get depressed and SOB. I sometimes wonder how often side effects are caused because of dose timing. Sometimes we are not told when is the best time to take our medications. Prednisolone is a once daily dose, often given to help us during an exacerbation. Some such as I take prednisolone to control symptoms – to stop inflammation. COPD is an inflammatory condition - the type of condition Prednisolone works well with. But when is best to take those little white pills?
When should you take steroids for COPD?
I once took my dose close to the evening. It did not take me long to work out the reason for waking up with terrible stomach pains during the night – and continuing to suffer during the morning – was because of the Prednisolone I was taking. I did some research and found the best time to take them was morning, with food. So changed my daily intake to breakfast time. My stomach troubles ceased. If Preds make you hyperactive, do you take yours in the evening? If so, time to talk to your doctor and consider change timing to see if that helps. If it does please make a comment below.
There is another side effect of taking steroids that will affect many of us. Bruising, mostly of the upper arms. Summer last year at one time my arm was so bruised it looked as though I had taken a beating. This meant instead of wearing short-sleeved shirts as I like to do during the summer, I was forced to wear long-sleeve shirts. Bruising is caused by thinning of the skin. An unfortunate side effect of taking oral steroids for long periods, and the older we are, the more likely we are to be affected as skin thins with age anyway. Research also showed that the more your arm is exposed to the sun, the worse the bruising is likely to be.
Remedies for bruising
Because of thinning of the skin, skin tears can become a problem too. I have knocked my arm on a door handle to then find a small wound as my skin has torn. This started to happen more often much to my annoyance. Until I found a way to lessen the problems of both tears and bruising. I now get much less bruising, and most important of all - less torn skin.
A good skin moisturizer and barrier I use, CeraVe, will do a lot to lessen bruising. Another product I use, Arnica gel, works on the bruising as if by magic by seeming to draw it out, and lead to much faster disappearance of any bruise and lesson it. A tub of Arnica is always on hand to use.
Your bone health
It is also very important to be aware that when taking Prednisolone long term there is a risk to bone health. Steroids have led to brittle bones and osteoporosis for some. To counteract that I have for many years taken a vitamin D3 supplement. My last bone scanned proved my bones to be stronger than usual for my age, despite taking steroids for most of my life on and off. Read my article The value of vitamin D for COPD for more information.
For me, Prednisolone is an important drug in our fight with COPD. It lowers lung inflammation, allowing us to breathe easier, and gets us back on our feet after a tough time quicker than we otherwise would. For many of us we have to take Prednisolone to allow us to not only breathe better but lead a more active better life. I hope an insight into how I deal with my problems taking steroids will be of help to some of you – and I look forward to your comments.
Until I next write. Enjoy life because whatever our problems, there are always those in a worse place. But most of all, breathe easy.
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