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I was a runner 30 years ago, and then I had a stroke in 2009 that put that activity on the back shelf permanently, only to be left with good–and sad–memories when I was eminently thin and strong.

Somewhere around 2018, I developed a mild form of arthritis in my right knee along with everlasting hemiparesis in that whole right lower extremity. (My upper right extremity, that is my right arm, is dead and hangs like a prop. But that is a story unto itself, so later perhaps).

Anyway, my arthritis was getting progressively worse in the beginning of 2023 in my knee where I couldn’t lie down without my right knee creaking and crackling and spasming with thunderous activity. I’d stay awake until 5am, then subsided and I could fall asleep from sheer exhaustion.

I measure everything with “is it bad enough to see a doctor” so I went to the hospital to get required x-rays in January 2023 and then went to see the orthopedist who told me that indeed, arthritis was present.

He said I can get a steroid injection of cortisone (steroid shots) for 3 consecutive weeks that’s supposed to cushion my knee and “maybe” stop the creaking and crackling and spasming. So I went on 3 consecutive weeks, and it stopped at first, but the discomfort returned after 5 days.

I did the same 3-week regimen this month. Same minimal result. Now I’m taking Prednisone, another steroid, for blocked sinuses, short-term. 

But wait. Let’s take a few minutes here to tell you about steroids. Corticosteroids, or simply steroids, are not benign. Common side effects, even for short-term use, include:

  • Emotional disturbances like nervousness, restlessness, irritability, trouble sleeping
  • Weight gain from fluid retention and increased appetite
  • Elevation in blood sugar possibly leading to diabetes

Risks from steroids in high dose or long-term use include:

  • Bone thinning leading to osteoporosis
  • Loss of blood supply which can produce fractures
  • High blood pressure
  • Glaucoma (increased pressure on the eye)
  • Permanent clouding (cataracts) of vision in one or both eyes
  • Facial fullness, sometimes called moon face
  • Increase in body hair and/or acne
  • Bruising of skin
  • Muscle cramps and joint pain
  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Irritation of esophagus, possibly ulcers

Except for diabetes, high blood pressure, and glaucoma, I had all on both lists. My impossible bucket list includes going back 30 years to see if I had taken steroids, more than likely so.

I began asking the pharmacist, no matter what the label said, if what I had been prescribed or selected from the shelves had steroids. His answer shocked me. It was a lot.

From the Mayo Clinic: Corticosteroids are given in many different ways, depending on the condition being treated:

  • By mouth. Tablets, capsules or syrups help treat the inflammation and pain associated with certain chronic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
  • By inhaler and intranasal spray. These forms help control inflammation associated with asthma and nasal allergies.
  • In the form of eye drops. This form helps treat swelling after eye surgery.
  • Topically. Creams and ointments can help heal many skin conditions.
  • By injection. This form is often used to treat muscle and joint symptoms, such as the pain and inflammation of tendinitis.

I had all of those categories over the past 30 years, even more recently, but knowing now after researching that steroids are harmful, even short-term, I ask the pharmacist every time. Follow my lead: ASK! 

Joyce Hoffman

Joyce Hoffman

Joyce Hoffman is one of the world's top 10 stroke bloggers according to the Medical News Today. You can find the original post and other blogs Joyce wrote in Tales of a Stroke Survivor. (https://talesofastrokesurvivor.blog)
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6 months ago

This is so important, I’ve been on a steroid removal campaign for a few years, it’s like trying to pull teeth in talking to some physicians, who seem to see it as the answer to all problems. I have unique reactions to it beyond the usual odd ones, they are psychological and behavioral and it certainly effected my rehab during stroke recovery. I was stunned later when I saw that they had given them to me regularly when they were on my allergy list.

thanks for writing this!!!
kd 😉💁🏻‍♀️

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