What are Oral Steroids?

Oral steroids, also known as corticosteroids, are medicines that contain steroid hormones. They’re used to treat inflammatory conditions and are available as tablets or in liquid form.

Your doctor can prescribe oral steroids for several illnesses, such as asthma and arthritis, but care should be taken when considering whether this is the right treatment for you.

In the United States, oral steroids are typically prescribed to treat asthma, arthritis, and lupus. Other conditions that may benefit from steroid use include eczema, psoriasis (a skin condition), multiple sclerosis (MS), and Crohn’s disease (an inflammatory bowel disease).

Steroids can also be used to reduce swelling after an injury or surgery, as well as decrease pain associated with these issues. This article will discuss oral steroids and their possible uses and functions.

What Are Oral Steroids?

Oral steroids are produced in the adrenal cortex. They are also called corticosteroids. Examples of steroids include hydrocortisone, prednisone, betamethasone, dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, methylprednisolone, deflazacort, and triamcinolone.

Steroids are drugs that can be used for various purposes, including treating inflammation and autoimmune diseases. They are also sometimes used to treat cancer. Most steroids are available in pill form, though some can be given by injection or applied topically.

Types of Oral Steroids — Systemic and Inhaled

Oral steroids are a class of medications that treat inflammation and conditions such as asthma, allergies, and skin problems. They’re also used to treat some types of cancer, although they aren’t typically prescribed for this purpose.

There are two main types of oral steroids. These two classifications differ in how they’re absorbed into the body and how they work on your condition.

1.     Systemic Oral Steroids

Systemic oral steroids are used to treat inflammation throughout the body. Systemic therapies tend to have more side effects than inhaled therapies; however, systemic treatments can be much more effective in treating certain conditions like severe allergic reactions or swelling from trauma or infection.

Systemic oral steroids are absorbed into the bloodstream and travel throughout your body. They’re often used to treat inflammatory conditions like arthritis, lupus erythematosus (SLE), or even cancerous conditions such as lymphoma or leukemia.

2.     Inhaled Steroids

Inhaled oral steroids are used only in the lungs. Inhaled steroids work better at treating asthma symptoms than systemic ones do. Inhaled steroids are absorbed into the lungs, which work directly on your airways.

This can be an option for people with asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) who need medication to help them breathe more easily but don’t want to take a systemic (oral) steroid.

What Are Oral Steroids Usually Prescribed For?

Oral steroids are a type of hormone replacement therapy that is generally prescribed for several conditions, including:

  • Asthma
  • Eczema or other skin conditions
  • Some types of arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, and ulcerative colitis (inflammatory bowel disease).
  • Herpes simplex (cold sores) and genital herpes (herpes genitalis).
  • Chickenpox (varicella).
  • Shingles (zoster).
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Are There Any Reasons Why You Won’t Be Prescribed Steroids?

If you are allergic to prednisone or other steroids, the doctor will not prescribe it. If you have a fungal infection, they won’t give you steroids.

The same goes for infections in your mouth or throat (but if you need oral antibiotics to treat an infection in your mouth or throat, the antibiotics may be able to include steroids).

A history of stomach ulcers or liver disease also means that oral steroid use should be restricted as much as possible since these conditions increase the risk of problems arising from taking them (and since there are alternatives available).

Finally, if someone has diabetes, their doctor may avoid prescribing any steroids because they can affect blood sugar levels and cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

What Are The Side Effects Of Oral Steroids?

Those who are considering using oral steroids may want to know what the possible side effects would be before taking them.

Inhaled steroids generally have fewer side effects than systemic oral steroids because they’re more targeted and go directly to the lungs.

Side effects from inhaled steroids are more likely to occur in the mouth and throat, but these can usually be managed by limiting your dose or frequency.

Inhaled steroids can also be more expensive than systemic oral medications because they’re not covered by most insurance plans (though this depends on your specific plan).

Here are some of the potential negative health effects:

  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Osteoporosis (bone density loss)
  • Cataracts
  • Skin problems such as acne or thinning skin (atrophy)
  • Mood swings/irritability
  • Muscle weakness


In conclusion, systemic oral steroids are powerful drugs that can help with various inflammatory conditions.

However, they should only be used under the supervision of a skilled physician who knows how to manage their side effects and monitor their use to ensure safe and effective treatment.





Pat Bass, M. D. (2021, October 28). What you need to know about systemic corticosteroids. Verywell Health. Retrieved December 3, 2022, from https://www.verywellhealth.com/oral-steroids-for-your-asthma-201153#:~:text=Corticosteroids%2C%20also%20referred%20to%20as,(throughout%20the%20entire%20body).

Willacy, D. H. (2021, April 30). Oral steroids: Types and side effects. Patient.info. Retrieved December 3, 2022, from https://patient.info/treatment-medication/steroids/oral-steroids

Arthritis, V. (2022). Steroids. Versus Arthritis. Retrieved December 3, 2022, from https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/treatments/drugs/steroids/

Clinic, M. (2022, November 1). Corticosteroid (oral route, parenteral route) description and brand names. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved December 3, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/corticosteroid-oral-route-parenteral-route/description/drg-20070491

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