Crux Biomedical Inc

NSAIDs and Corticosteroids: Their Uses and Differences

There exist different drugs used for the treatment of inflammations in the body. The two major groups of medications prescribed for this purpose include corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. While some of the uses of these medications coincide, there are differences in how they work, which side effects they may cause, and more. To learn more about these groups of drugs, continue reading.

Corticosteroids and their peculiarities

Otherwise referred to as just steroids, corticosteroids are a class of anti-inflammatory medications prescribed for the treatment of both chronic and acute inflammatory musculoskeletal conditions. Such drugs are available in different forms and can be given to a patient as an injection, by mouth, or with the help of iontophoresis. Injections are often used in the cases of localized pain, which also helps minimize any adverse reactions associated with oral use.

Corticosteroids effectively suppress the immune response and inflammation and they help break down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Such medications are prescribed to treat a number of conditions, including bronchitis, arthritis, colitis, skin conditions, allergic reactions, and more. The use of corticosteroids in any form should be carefully monitored by medical professionals, as exceeding the duration of use or dosage can cause severe side effects.

The medications in the class of glucocorticoids often prescribed to patients include such:

  • Prednisone
  • Cortisone
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Dexamethasone
  • Triamcinolone

What are NSAIDs?

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are non-narcotic medications used to reduce inflammation and treat the pain of different nature. This includes menstrual cramps, arthritis, headache, muscle ache, and also pain and inflammation caused by injuries. The medications in this class are also used for the reduction of fever. The way the medications work is by blocking two forms of the cyclooxygenase enzyme – COX-1 and COX-2. The first enzyme form plays a role in maintaining kidney function and also ensures that the stomach lining is protected from acids during digestion. The second form is developed by the body when an individual has an inflammation in the joints or experiences an injury. NSAIDs block such enzyme forms and thus achieve the reduction of pain, fever, inflammation, in the body.

Just like corticosteroids, some drugs in the category of NSAIDs are also available in the form of creams and other topical treatments. This form of NSAIDs is used when a person has a sprain, gets an injury, or experiences arthritic pains. The use of topical NSAIDs is a great solution for people who have contraindications to the treatment using tablets, as they cause lower levels of the active ingredient in the blood.

The drugs belonging to the class of NSAIDs include such:

  • Diclofenac
  • Indomethacin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Celecoxib
  • Piroxicam
  • Oxaprozin
  • Naproxen
  • Ketoprofen
  • Nabumetone

All the drugs on the list can be used to treat inflammation as a result of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. The choice of the drug and its exact dosage should be chosen by a medical professional based on your symptoms, medical history, and other drugs that you take. The most widely used drugs for relieving pain and swelling associated with arthritis are Feldene (Piroxicam) and Ibuprofen.

Which side effects are caused by these medications?

As NSAIDs and corticosteroids have different mechanisms of action, they also cause different adverse reactions. When a doctor knows your medical history, they can make a more informed decision when choosing the class of drugs based on what health conditions you may already have.

The common side effects caused by corticosteroids include the following:

  • Headache
  • Fluid retention (puffiness in the face and swelling in limbs)
  • Hypertension
  • Easy bruising
  • Excessive hair growth on the face
  • Slow healing of wounds
  • Low levels of potassium
  • Irregular menstruations

Side effects, especially severe ones, are often the result of using higher dosages. For this reason, you should never exceed the recommended dosage and inform your doctor immediately if you begin experiencing any suspicious symptoms. The long-term use of corticosteroids should always be monitored by medical specialists, as the side effects in this case can be more serious.

Just like corticosteroids, NSAIDs can cause adverse reactions, especially in cases of uncontrolled use. Some of the side effects a person taking NSAIDs may experience include the following:

  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Headache
  • Skin rash
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Fluid retention

Severe adverse reactions from taking NSAIDs, especially for a long time, include:

  • Stomach ulcers
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure

Elderly patients and those with pre-existing gastroenterological conditions and any kidney and liver disorders are particularly prone to such side effects. It is important that your doctor chooses the drug for you according to your medical history.

Corticosteroids and drug interactions

Considering drug interactions is important before you begin taking any drugs, as undesirable combinations of medications can lead to serious side effects.

Drugs that should not be taken with corticosteroids include such:

  • Ketoconazole
  • Erythromycin
  • Clarithromycin
  • Troleandomycin

More corticosteroid drugs: It is also important to be careful and inform your doctor if you take anticholinesterase medications, estrogen, warfarin, and cholestyramine.

Which drugs interact with NSAIDs?

NSAIDs can also negatively interact with a number of medications, so you have to be careful and avoid combining such drugs with:

  • Diuretics
  • Blood-thinning drugs (warfarin, etc.)
  • Cyclosporine
  • Drugs for the treatment of hypertension

It is vital that you consult a medical specialist regarding the list of drugs that you can or cannot consume when using NSAIDs. This will ensure that your treatment will be safe and you will be able to avoid unwanted side effects.

Different ways to reduce inflammation and pain

Corticosteroids and NSAIDs are medications used for reducing inflammation and relieving pain. The additional effect of NSAIDs is that such drugs also reduce fever. The medications are different in their mechanisms of action, side effects, and drug interactions. Because of this, it is important to have an understanding of your condition and any health issues you may have to choose the correct drug. Regardless of the prescribed medication, it’s essential to follow your doctor’s recommendation and never exceed the recommended dosage or the duration of treatment.