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I hate the side effects of steroids. How can I manage them?

Posted on 2 July 2020

You are not alone.  This is a very common problem. Steroids are a necessary evil, and it is important to make friends with something that is preventing you from experiencing the worst aspects of PMR and GCA. But there are some simple things that you can do to minimize the side effects –

  1. Take them after breakfast. If your body was making steroid naturally, you would have a peak in the morning. Since you are taking your steroids as tablets, it is best to mimic the natural rhythm and take them between 8am and 10am.
  2. Agree on a taper with your rheumatologist. Ideally, you should have a taper which is tailored to you, especially for GCA.
  3. Be very careful what you eat. Steroids give you the ‘munchies’ and it is easy to reach out for cakes and biscuits. That weight is not going to come off easily. It may be an idea to stock up on healthy snacks. Carrots and low fat humous can be your friends.
  4. Exercise regularly. Steroids can reduce your muscle mass. So you need to engage in some resistance exercise to ensure that your muscles remain engaged.
  5. Ensure that you attend surgery for regular checks for diabetes. Unfortunately, steroids can unmask diabetes and you want to find out about that as soon as possible. Your doctor can invite you to be having regular sugar and blood pressure checks. If your rheumatologist has a specialist nurse attached to the unit, this would be an ideal to discuss with them.