Immediately after my colonoscopy and the confirmed diagnosis of UC I was prescribed an 8 week course of steroids – Prednisolone to be exact. Each tablet is 5mg so you start off taking 8 tablets (40mg), and this decreases by 5mg each week. You also take alongside Prednisolone a Calcium and Vitamin D supplement morning and night to ensure your bones remain nice and strong, these taste like fruit and in the grand scheme of things are pretty irrelevant. It is also important to remember to take any other medication they advise, in my case I am still taking the Asacol (immunosuppressants) two tablets, twice a day. What a cocktail huh!?
Up until this point in my life I have never really been a sickly person, I’ve never stayed overnight in hospital, never broken a bone (touch wood!) so naturally I’ve never been prescribed steroids before. The word steroids has all sorts of negative connotations, well at least they did in my life until this point. I mean body builders take steroids right? To get all big and be like Popeye? Well I certainly didn’t want that, I’d definitely heard of ‘Roid Rage’ too, was I going to turn into a monster!?
So like anybody would in my situation I turned to Google – now Google needs to come with a warning, which I have learnt – everything always leads to Cancer or Death somehow, but I have learnt to trust reliable sources such as the NHS website and this is their definition:
“Steroids are a man-made version of hormones normally produced by the adrenal glands, two small glands found above the kidneys.
When taken in doses higher than the amount your body normally produces, steroids reduce redness and swelling (inflammation). This can help with inflammatory conditions such as asthma and eczema.
Steroids also reduce the activity of the immune system, the body’s natural defence against illness and infection (NHS, 2017).”
This definition seemed to calm me and suffice, however I was also interested in looking for peoples personal stories on the steroids, had they gained weight? Did they develop acne? For Prednisolone in particular the list of side effects do include:
“The higher the dose of prednisolone that you take, the greater the chance of side effects. You are less likely to get side effects if you take a relatively low dose of less than 20mg prednisolone daily.
Some side effects, such as stomach upset or mood changes, can happen straight away. Others, such as getting a rounder face, happen after weeks or months.
Common side effects
Common side effects happen in more than 1 in 100 people. Keep taking the medicine, but tell your doctor if they bother you or don’t go away:
• weight gain
• not able to sleep
• sweating a lot
Serious side effects
You are more likely to have a serious side effect if you take a higher dose (more than 20mg daily) of prednisolone or if you have been taking it for more than a few weeks.
Tell a doctor straight away if you get:
• an infection – warning signs include fever, chills, a very sore throat, ear or sinus pain, a cough, more saliva or a change in colour of saliva, pain with passing urine, mouth sores, or a wound that will not heal
• high blood sugar – warning signs include feeling sleepy or confused, feeling very thirsty or hungry, passing urine more often, flushing, breathing quickly, or breath that smells like fruit
• Cushing’s syndrome – warning signs include weight gain in the upper back or belly, moon face, very bad headaches, and slow wound healing
• adrenal gland problems – warning signs include a very upset stomach or vomiting, very bad dizziness or passing out, muscle weakness, feeling very tired, mood changes, loss of appetite and weight loss
• low potassium levels – warning signs include muscle pain or weakness, muscle cramps, or a heartbeat that does not feel normal
• pancreas problems – warning signs include severe stomach pain, severe back pain, severe upset stomach or vomiting (NHS, http://bit.ly/2qlZqlI)”
So as you can imagine – I was overwhelmed, and terrified, I didn’t want to put weight on, I definitely didn’t want to get a round face (on a personal note this is actually a huge thing for me – the shape of my face, in the last 6 months I have actually worked on changing the shape of my face, but that is another story), hell I didn’t want any of these symptoms!? And of course all I was getting was negativity, the internet is a wonderful place but it can also be incredibly unhelpful and dark, most of the hits popping up were coming from threads on forums from 2007 or Mums Net – not exactly my target audience. But I am now about to progress into week 3 of the roids and I will be sharing with you week by week by thoughts/symptoms etc.
Week One – Prednisolone 40mg (8 tablets)
Sat at the breakfast table popping out 8 tablets over my bowl of Rice Krispies was an experience! These tiny little tablets, what were you going to do to me today? So I popped them four by four and voila done. I got on with my day. As the week went by and I got more into a routine I was going from strength to strength. I was no longer feeling weak, I was beginning to feel like myself and my confidence with food was increasing. The only immediate side effects I got that lasted for about a week was breathlessness, but towards the end of the week this disappeared and I didn’t feel it was an issue enough to share with the GP.
If anything during this week my mood lifted, I felt fantastic! How could these tablets work such magic in such a short space of time!?
To be continued…