: Starting October 2014 :
Happy Thursday everyone! I hope your week’s been going well!
For me—at least when I first started it in September 2014—my colon adored this steroid. My intestines loved the way Prednisone reduced my insane inflammation and pain.
My guts rejoiced every morning when I guzzled those 60 milligrams of drug. It was a party in my stomach every morning because I knew the pain of the night would be banished for the rest of the day.
However, every other part of my body despised the drug.
My tongue hated its stale taste and sawdust texture.
My head couldn’t stand the way Prednisone dared to involve my hair by making it constantly oily.
My eyes hated the way it grew my face through its water-retaining powers, somehow managing to summon every ounce of water into my cheeks.
But, nonetheless, I first saw Prednisone through rose-colored glasses, simply because when I first started taking it, it had not been long enough for the side effects to start yet.
In fact, I was ecstatic to take this drug! It seemed to work almost instantly and I even thought, Oh good, this is the solution right here! One and done! I initially thought these these small chalk-like pills held the answer to my prayers. And they did—for a hot moment.
Those suckers do their job well, but, boy, do they charge.
After about a month of taking 60 milligrams a day (which is a fairly high dosage) my body started to change.
I started noticing the side effects. They crept out of nowhere, innocently at first, manifesting as pimples and simple mood swings. But after a few more weeks, they increased.
The best way for me to describe it is that it felt as if my body was morphing into a different body. I started experiencing unwelcomed weight gain, body tenderness, and other not-so-fun reactions.
Here are the side effects that most affected me:
1. Moon Face
No, I didn’t make up this name 🙂 Moon face it is one of those side effects that’s basically unavoidable 🙁 Since Prednisone is a steroid, it specializes in affecting hormones which can cause imbalances.
This disproportion causes both sodium and water retention, particularly around the face and neck. It stored all this water in my cheeks as if I were a chipmunk storing water inside myself for the drought summer. Thanks, but no thanks, Pred.
Solution: I found myself watching YouTube videos, teaching myself to contour. I’m not gonna lie, I wore much more makeup than normal—brown blush in particular—to accentuate what was left of my cheekbones.
2. Hunger Cravings
How shall I put this. Prednisone made me RAVENOUS. Seriously. I’d eat a large dinner and wake up in the middle of the night from a growling stomach. I ended up keeping snacks by my bed for nights like those. Then, I’d wake up in the morning craving a freakin’ English breakfast.
Solution: Take advantage of this! Use your hunger to fill up on fruits, veggies, and other food groups that you and doctor decide are beneficial for your specific case.
Pro-Tip: Try Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend!
3. Weight Gain
Prednisone ramped up my appetite. I was a non-stop eating machine, which was definitely a contributor to the weight gain, on top of all the sodium and water retention.
Sidenote: my body type is ectomorph, meaning it’s difficult for me to gain weight, both fat and muscle. But let me tell ya, it was sure easy on Prednisone. I gained around twenty pounds. I could no longer fit into some of my jeans. For some pants, I had to wear a belt on the loosest hole simply to cover up my unbuttoned button!
Solution: It is suggested to limit your sodium intake and increase your potassium intake while on Prednisone. This can help ensure you get the right level of nutrients while on this sodium-retaining drug. Also, like I mentioned above, don’t be afraid to contour 😉
4. Mood Changes
Prednisone is tough because it really plays with the chemicals in your brain. In addition to already being emotional and trying to accept this my chronic illness, the drug heightened my emotions—from happy, mad, sad, and everywhere in between.
It was like PMSing on steroids, literally.
I remember a day in my apartment at William Jessup University that I just broke down. For no reason. My roommate stared at me, wondering what to do and where the waterworks came from. Though they came from nowhere, the emotions were very real. I felt distraught, distressed, in need of a good cry.
My roommate brought a few other roommates to my room and prayed for me, which probably made me cry even harder, but encouraged me as well.
Solution: I really suggest finding and strengthening your support group. Having friends and family there for you, simply to hug you and talk with you, makes a world of difference when sifting through extreme emotions caused my Prednisone’s chemical side effects.
Ugh. I thought acne was a thing of my high-school past! Nope. Prednisone brought all the acne back, turned my skin red, and displayed it all with pride on my puffy face. A part of this is because Prednisone can increase your body temperature, causing heat waves and night sweats, and thus, spreading that sweat and oil.
Solution: I regularly used a sugar scrub every morning, and a particular oil-free acne scrub in the evening. I personally found that the coarseness of the sugar scrub woke up my skin and washed away any sweat from overheating during the night. Then I used the acne scrub at the end of the day to cleanse all dirt, sweat, and impurities.
Though it did not make my Prednisone-induced acne disappear, it seemed to prevent it from getting worse. These items worked for me, but you may have to experiment to find what brand and ingredients work best for your skin type.
6. Greasy Hair
Similarly, since Prednisone causes chemical and hormonal changes, it affected the oils released by my glands. This made my hair CONSTANTLY greasy. It didn’t matter if I washed it every other day, every day, or twice in one day, it looked like my hair was wet 24/7.
Like, it looked like I stepped out of the shower without drying my hair.
I tried wearing it down but it cascaded greasily around my face.
I tried wearing it in a bun and ponytail, but its wirey texture made it look like I had gelled it.
Not my best look.
Solution: Baby powder and/or dry shampoo! For me, baby powder seems to work more effectively than dry shampoo. I’ve read that you can even mix cocoa powder with the baby powder to make it a darker color so it blends easier with darker hair colors.
7. Body Tenderness
I felt this deep soreness deep in my muscles. I like to describe it as if a meat tenderizer had mashed my muscles. Like I had just maxed out with some high-level weight lifting. It was all over my body, but the most affected places were my back, neck, upper arms, and down my sides. Simply pressing my finger into my skin caused pain.
Solution: I picked up an inexpensive muscle rub. This pain-relieving cream gets warm and feels sooo nice on those aching muscles. There are many different brands out there, but this one by Pure-Aid worked well with me!
This experience with Prednisone wasn’t my definition of enjoyable, but Prednisone did what it said it would do:
- Tamed my inflammation,
- Got my pain under control (with the exception of one comical misadventure!), and
- Proved to be a great short-term drug.
And that’s the thing about Prednisone—it’s not meant to be a long-term maintenance drug. It’s wonderful for lassoing in those crazy IBD symptoms and healing your gut enough to try the next step, which is typically the long-term solution drug.
By the way, if you haven’t already, check out this post to view the long-term drugs I tried!
So, though Prednisone didn’t prove to be my end-all-be-all solution (and thank God because I don’t want to live with a moon-face for the rest of my life) it was a large part of my life for about seven months. I took it daily from September 2014 – February 2015.
But, Prednisone doesn’t like to leave your system without a grand exit. It can stubbornly take several months for its side effects to entirely leave your system after you’re finished taking it.
I stopped taking it in February 2015 but held onto my moon-face until the end of April; I started to see my cheekbones again right around my 21st birthday—it was the best birthday present I’ve ever received!
I was eager to say goodbye and good riddance to those Prednisone-induced emotional breakdowns, unattractive gel-like hairdos, and chipmunk cheeks.
Welcome back, cheekbones!
Do you also have a love-hate relationship with Prednisone? Tell us about it in the Facebook group! What side effects did you endure and how did you power through them?
I truly believe that the way to bridge this disease type’s chasm of alienation, fear, being misunderstood, etc. is to engage in community and share our experiences to help others along their journeys. Let’s not keep these adventures to ourselves! Let’s learn to share our fears, our trials, and our triumphs to find the comical in the deepest, darkest crevices of our guts!