Dexamethasone is a form of corticosteroid. These medicines are derived from the corticosteroid hormones cortisol and aldosterone. Both of these hormones are naturally produced by the adrenal glands.
Corticosteroids such as dexamethasone can be taken in several ways, including as a topical application, and by injection. Corticosteroids are not to be confused with anabolic steroids, which are mucle-building steroids that are often abused by athletes. Corticosteroids have several medicinal applications in the treatment of some cancers and auto-immune diseases.
Dexamethasone sodium phosphate is a synthetic corticosteroid that is taken by injection, either into a vein (intravenously), or into a muscle (intramuscularly). It can also be taken orally in some cases. A dexamethasone injection is used in cases where oral medication is not practical – such as in the treatment of shock.
They can also be used when oral medication would not be fast-acting enough, for example in the event of a server asthma attack, or an allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis.
Dexamethasone injections can be used to reduce inflammation, and prevent the release of certain chemicals which produce harmful allergic responses. The anti-inflammatory effects can be valuable in the reduction of swelling, and in pain relief.
An injection can be used to provide targeted pain relief – for example, the injection could be given directly into the joint to treat arthritis, or joint and soft tissue related sports injuries such as tennis elbow or bursitis. Dexamethasone can also work as an appetite stimulant, and an anti-nausea drug.
Dexamethasone injections are generally advisable only in cases where oral treatment is contraindicated. Dexamethasone side effects can occur after prolonged use, however most of the side effects are temporary and easily reversible when treatment is ceased.
If you are taking corticosteroids, you should inform your doctor of any other medication that you are taking (including over the counter medications, herbal remedies, and dietary supplements). You should not take any new medications without consulting your doctor first.
Dexamethasone injections, if given into a joint, could increase the risk of joint infection. Before receiving an injection into a joint, a sample of fluid from the joint should be examined to ensure that there is not a pre-existing infection. Joint injections should be given in a sterile environment, and good hygiene should be observed at all times.
Remember that the corticosteroid infection could make your joints feel better even though the underlying reason for the inflammation is still there. For this reason, you should continue to rest your joints following the injection, rather than immediately return to whatever activity caused the initial injury.
- Dexamethasone injections should not be given directly into tendons
- Corticosteroids should be avoided in people with widespread infections
- Dexamethasone should not be injected into joints that are currently infected
- Corticosteroids should not be used in the management of head injuries or stroke patients
Corticosteroids should be avoided by the following groups:
- The elderly
- Women who have passed the menopause
- People with diabetes
- People suffering from hypertension
- Those who have recently had a heart attack
The above is just a short list of those who should avoid taking corticosteroids such as dexamethasone. The list is not conclusive, and you should consult your physician and have your medical history carefully examined before considering this drug in any form – oral, topical, or intravenously.
If you are taking dexamethasone and feel that you have had a bad reaction to it, then consult your doctor immediately. Do not cease taking the drug, or alter your dosage, without first seeking professional medical advice.