Patients on corticosteroids for treating various conditions are often cautioned about possible side effects. The medication is typically used for treating including inflammatory conditions, allergies, asthma and skin conditions. A common apprehension among patients is – Is sunburn a side effect of prednisone? Should I avoid being in the sun while taking prednisone? Here are in-depth details about the corticosteroid and the mechanism of action, apart from the possible side effects. This will help to clearly understand if the medication could result in any possible adverse effect linked to sunburn.

Overview of prednisone

As outlined above, Prednisone, a corticosteroid, is a synthetic version of a hormone called cortisol produced naturally in the adrenal glands. The drug is used to treating the following conditions – rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease. Its effect on allergies makes it suitable for treating severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis or angioedema. Prednisone is also used to help manage acute asthma attacks. Additionally, skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis are also treated with the corticosteroid. Prednisone is also a part of cancer treatment regimens, and is used to either reduce inflammation or mitigate the side effects of chemotherapy.

What is the mechanism of action of prednisone?

Prednisone works in a manner similar to cortisol, the hormone produced by the adrenal glands. The drug works on the body’s immune system and metabolism, and this brings about various therapeutic benefits. The corticosteroid binds to specific receptor proteins in the cytoplasm of cells, and this in turn triggers a chain of biochemical reactions resulting in changes in gene expression. Some of the effects include inhibition of production of inflammatory mediators – prostaglandins and cytokines, responsible for the swelling, redness, and pain associated with inflammation. This helps treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease.

The immunosuppressive effects are attributed to the inhibition of the production of T-cells and B-cells, involved in the body’s immune response. This helps in preventing the rejection of transplanted organs and also for treating autoimmune diseases. Prednisone is known to increase the breakdown of proteins and fats in the body, resulting in an increase in blood sugar levels. One of the outcomes of this is weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes.


Commonly reported side effects of prednisone

All medications are known to cause undesirable effects and the corticosteroid is no exception. Prednisone may cause a wide range of side effects, and this depends on the dose and duration of intake. Commonly side effects include the following:

When taken on a long term basis, the drug may trigger any of the following effects, that are regarded as serious:

As the main apprehension is the effect on the skin, here are possible effects that may be experienced on the skin due to Prednisone.

Drug interactions of prednisone

Prednisone may interact with various other medications, including prescription drugs and over-the-counter products, including the following.

#1 Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – When taken with NSAIDs the interaction can increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.

#2 Blood thinners – Interaction with anticoagulant medications may result in an increased risk of bleeding.

#3 Vaccines – The effectiveness of certain vaccines may be affected due to the impact on the immune system.

#4 Diabetes medications – Possible increase in blood sugar levels from Prednisone may result in more than desired outcomes among patients on diabetes medications.

#5 Diuretics – As a result of possible potassium loss from prednisone, intake along with diuretics may result in low potassium levels.

#6 Estrogens – Birth control pills, are known to increase the effects of prednisone, and makes it necessary to adjust the dose of prednisone.

Is sunburn a side effect of prednisone? Should I avoid being in the sun while taking prednisone?

It is now time to answer the above question. Sunburn is not actually a direct side effect of prednisone, but there are other effects of the corticosteroid on the skin that may cause possible indirect effects. Prednisone can make your skin thinner and more fragile, making it easier for UV rays to penetrate the skin. This may expose the individual to the possibility of sunburn. However, it is important to note that this is not a commonly reported condition, and occurs only among a small section of users. This is restricted only to patients on the drug for an extended period of time. Patients on the drug for shorter periods are unlikely to experience these effects.

It is a good idea to take certain basic precautions to avoid sun exposure while on the corticosteroid. This includes wearing protective clothing, use of a good sunscreen with a high SPF, and avoiding exposure to peak sunlight. Adequate hydration and staying away from tanning beds/other sources of UV radiation also help to prevent sunburn.

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