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Warning About COPD Steroids and Diabetes

These aren’t the type of steroids that cheating athletes or body builders take – they are known as corticosteroids and if you have a chronic lung disease like Asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), then you may have been prescribed one of these drugs. These come in several different forms, but to treat lung inflammation, they are taken orally or as a powder or spray taken with an inhaler.

These are taken as an anti-inflammatory, and are also used to treat arthritis and allergies. One steroid known as prednisone is used to keep inflammation down in COPD, and the drug is prescribed on a semi long term basis to help prevent exacerbations. Exacerbations are the flare-ups that occur in those with COPD, and they also lead to the general worsening of the disease. Experts are finding out that taking high doses of prednisone and other corticosteroids, even for short periods of time, increase the risk of diabetes.

Corticosteroids caused the adrenal glands to release more glucose into the blood, which in turn works to reduce inflammation and suppress overreactions of the immune system, such as case with allergies. Even inhaled corticosteroids (also known as glucocorticoids) in higher doses can have an effect if taken for a long period of time.

Prednisone, which is taken orally, goes into the blood stream. A corticosteroid taken with an inhaler goes straight into the lungs, and in a normal or low dose, only a little can be detected in the blood stream. An inhaled steroid in a high dose will naturally release a much higher level into the blood stream.

If you’ve been prescribed a control inhaler, which is taken on a regular basis, you will have these levels of glucose in your blood. Since control inhalers are taken for a long period of time, this will keep those levels high. This puts you at risk for your insulin levels to drop, since your pancreas has had to work harder than normal to regulate your blood sugar.

It’s still a minority of elderly people who would develop type 2 diabetes after having taken corticosteroids for many years. Unfortunately, there are no real alternatives to what corticosteroids such as prednisone can do for the lungs and other inflammation. Someone having an asthma attack or a COPD exacerbation will likely be prescribed the drug over the course of 5 days, which is often long enough to bring down the inflammation and fix the problem.

If someone has frequently recurring severe exacerbations, this will become a problem if prednisone is administered too often. If this is happening, it’s usually because the root of the problem needs to be addressed. Sometimes all this means is controlling asthma triggers around the home and doing what one can to stay healthy and boost their immune system to prevent colds and respiratory infections.

Putting dust covers on pillows and mattress, using a HEPA filter to vacuum carpets and upholstery and getting rid of indoor pollutants might be what you need to help prevent frequent flare-ups.

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