Steroid side effects

You might not experience all of these side effects and not everyone has them. It depends on the type of steroid drug, the dose you take, how long you take them for, and whether or not you are also on any other medication.

The information below gives a general overview of some of the more common side effects of steroids. For more information about the side effects of your drugs and how to deal with them, talk to your specialist.

Your care team can help you manage these side effects. Advice from a dietitian can be especially helpful if you are worried about gaining weight while you’re taking steroids.

Increased appetite and weight gain

Taking steroids may make you feel hungrier, and you might find it difficult to maintain your former weight. Your appetite will go back to normal once you stop taking the steroids, but some people need to watch their diet and exercise levels to lose the extra weight.

Swollen hands, feet or ankles from water retention

Due to the changed salt and water balance in your body, you may notice that your ankles, feet or hands swell. If you have swollen ankles, try to avoid standing for long periods of time and put your feet up when sitting down.

Increased risk of infection

Tell your specialist immediately if you notice any signs of infection (such as inflammation, redness, soreness or a temperature), as you may need to take antibiotics.

Changes in blood sugar levels

If you are taking steroids for a long time or you are on a high dose, your blood sugar levels may be affected. Let your specialist know if you feel thirstier than usual or if you need to pass urine more frequently, as these can be symptoms of high blood sugar levels.

Changes in mood and behaviour

You may find that you feel more anxious or emotional while you are taking steroids, and that you feel tired and low for a while after you stop taking them.

Difficulty in sleeping

Some people find that taking steroids leads to difficulty sleeping. Taking your tablets first thing in the morning may help.

Pregnancy issues

It is not advisable to become pregnant or father a child while you are taking steroids, as they can harm the developing baby. If you are concerned that you or your partner may become pregnant, talk to your specialist about contraception before starting treatment.

Updated December 2014, next planned review 2017.