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Steroids, bruising, and bones.

Steroids, Bruising, and Bones

There is a saying, ‘The older we get the more pills we take‘. I am sure this applies even more for us with a chronic health problem.

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 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 hyper active, 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 them little white pills?

I once took my dose close to 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 hyper active, do you take yours in 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.

Bruising

There is another side effect to 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 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.

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 moisturiser 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.

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 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 look forward to your comments.

Until I next write. Enjoy life because whatever our problems, there is always those in a worse place. But most of all, Breathe easy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • blubird
    4 weeks ago

    Three months ago I decided to try self medicating with Predisnolone, I couldn’t believe the difference it made! I honestly can’t believe that doctors were content to let me struggle to complete daily chores etc, without offering steroids to me! Now, I take 10mg daily, have managed to do my own shopping, gardening, vacuum my home, and generally have a little bit of my previous life back. I’m so glad I forced my GP’s hand in this. Hard to believe I was so down and ill for so long. It’s not a miracle cure, but boy! It has made my life more manageable. Stay safe.

  • buckybuck
    2 years ago

    I just came across this article, Derek, which I see was written back in October, but it’s the first I’ve seen it. I’ve had similar experiences with Prednisone i,e, the bruising and skin tearing. Thanks so much for suggesting the two meds that can help with this! I just hope they are available in the US. I am only on 5 mg so I don’t have much swelling nor any “chubby cheeks”, thank God! I, too, learned the hard way to take it in the morning. It does make me a bit hyper, but I figure that’s good! Again, thanks for your article! I always love reading what you write!

  • Derek Cummings author
    2 years ago

    Hi Buckybuck. I am pleased you have found the article useful. As Leon has said both products are available in the States. Both Arnica and CeraVe is sourced from the states for myself.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi buckybuck and thanks for your comment. I thought you would want to know that both CeraVe and Arnica gel are products that are available in the United States.
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • lizzanne
    2 years ago

    Hi Derek, Thank you so much for this information! I have just begun the “bruising” stage of my copd life and this information is indeed helpful. Honestly getting older is an adventure in and of itself, but adding copd makes it an even more wild ride, everyday seems to bring a new mountain to “climb” Arnica and Cere Ve will be added to my tool box today. They say faith can move mountains, I feel like I need to move the entire range!!!!!! thanks again….stay calm and carry on.

  • Peter Queripel.
    2 years ago

    Hi Derek I’ve just finished reducing a coarse of steroids and I’m feeling much better. I was making my bed this morning and caught my arm on my bedroom cabinet and made a large tear. As yet there is no bruising but i usually get loads of them. I’ve been using E45 on my skin and I find this helps some what. I will try the brands you mentioned and see if they help me.

  • Jess3601
    3 years ago

    Thank you Derek. I enjoyed reading this article and your other ones. This has been my first doses of steroids. How do you deal with muscle cramps and pain?

  • Derek Cummings author
    3 years ago

    Cramps at one time caused me a lot of pain, and discomfort Jess. Not only when on Steroids. Many of us with copd is short the mineral magnesium in our bodies.I found a magnesium complex supplement cured my problem Might be worth a try although I make no promises for yourself Jess.

    I have also had cramps through low oxygen saturation levels. My fault when that happened. If you use oxygen at all for mobility one to check on. Hopefully you will be off the steroids soon.

  • KevinDavitt
    3 years ago

    Derek – thanks much.

    On your recommendation I ordered some Arnica gel since I get the same “bruising” problem from the steroids in SYMBICORT. But applications of Arnica have done amazing things to lessen the effect.

    Your words are always encouraging. They are appreciated.

    Kevin

  • Derek Cummings author
    3 years ago

    Arnica really is amazing at helping the bruising to go. Many thanks for your comments Kevin. 🙂

  • cassell
    3 years ago

    Boy, oh boy am I having a time with bruises that open up on my legs. Have one on back of calf that refuses to heal. I’ve tried leaving it open to the air, but it repeatedly opens up again. So now that the weather here in FL has turned I’m going to try wearing long pants for protection. Will try using Cerave, but find that lotions help the forming scabs to reopen…my doc yesterday suggested a soft loose bandage and by this a.m. the scab had again opened…phooey.

  • Erin Rush moderator
    3 years ago

    I am sorry you are having such a hard time with those pesky bruises, cassell! I hope you get some healing very soon! Best, Erin, COPD.net Team Member.

  • girlbybay
    3 years ago

    I need steroids sometimes and subsequently suffer the bruising effect, thin skin etc.. I wonder anyone try stem cell therapy, salt room, the lamps, special diet, additional walking? Thanks for any input,Sincerely, Girlbybay

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Girlbybay – hopefully, other community members will weigh in on your concerns with their own personal experiences.
    As for your inquiry regarding the different ‘salt therapies’, I thought you might find this article to be helpful: https://copd.net/answers/himalayan-salt-lamps/
    All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • cassell
    3 years ago

    I am having great difficulty with skin tears, blood filled bruises that open up, especially on my legs. A simple bang against an object, doesn’t have to be sharp, will tear large pieces of skin. Have one now that doesn’t want to heal. That’s another aspect…very slow healing. Thanks for your suggestions of using cerave and arnica. will definitely try them!

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 years ago

    Thanks for your post, Cassell. It sounds like you have some challenges with bruising but it also sounds like you’re tackling these challenges head on! Keep up the good work! All the best, Leon (site moderator)

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