Chickenpox and measles can have a more serious or even fatal course in pediatric and adult patients on corticosteroids. In pediatric and adult patients who have not had these diseases, particular care should be taken to avoid exposure. How the dose, route and duration of corticosteroid administration affect the risk of developing a disseminated infection is not known. The contribution of the underlying disease and/or prior corticosteroid treatment to the risk is also not known. If exposed to chickenpox, prophylaxis with varicella zoster immune globulin (VZIG) may be indicated. If exposed to measles, prophylaxis with pooled intramuscular immunoglobulin (IG) may be indicated. (See the respective package inserts for complete VZIG and IG prescribing information.) If chickenpox develops, treatment with antiviral agents may be considered.
Use of corticosteroids may produce posterior subcapsular cataracts, glaucoma with possible damage to the optic nerves, and may enhance the establishment of secondary ocular infections due to bacteria, fungi or viruses. The use of oral corticosteroids is not recommended in the treatment of optic neuritis and may lead to an increase in the risk of new episodes. Corticosteroids should not be used in active ocular herpes simplex because of possible corneal perforation.
The lowest possible dose of corticosteroids should be used to control the condition under treatment. When reduction in dosage is possible, the reduction should be gradual.
Since complications of treatment with glucocorticoids are dependent on the size of the dose and the duration of treatment, a risk/benefit decision must be made in each individual case as to dose and duration of treatment and as to whether daily or intermittent therapy should be used.
Kaposi’s sarcoma has been reported to occur in patients receiving corticosteroid therapy, most often for chronic conditions. Discontinuation of corticosteroids may result in clinical improvement.
As sodium retention with resultant edema and potassium loss may occur in patients receiving corticosteroids, these agents should be used with caution in patients with congestive heart failure, hypertension, or renal insufficiency.
Drug-induced secondary adrenocortical insufficiency may be minimized by gradual reduction of dosage. This type of relative insufficiency may persist for up to 12 months after discontinuation of therapy following large doses for prolonged periods; therefore, in any situation of stress occurring during that period, hormone therapy should be reinstituted. Since mineralocorticoid secretion may be impaired, salt and/or a mineralocorticoid should be administered concurrently.
There is an enhanced effect of corticosteroids on patients with hypothyroidism.
Steroids should be used with caution in active or latent peptic ulcers, diverticulitis, fresh intestinal anastomoses, and nonspecific ulcerative colitis, since they may increase the risk of a perforation.
Signs of peritoneal irritation following gastrointestinal perforation in patients receiving corticosteroids may be minimal or absent.
There is an enhanced effect due to decreased metabolism of corticosteroids in patients with cirrhosis.
Corticosteroids decrease bone formation and increase bone resorption both through their effect on calcium regulation (i.e., decreasing absorption and increasing excretion) and inhibition of osteoblast function. This, together with a decrease in the protein matrix of the bone secondary to an increase in protein catabolism, and reduced sex hormone production, may lead to inhibition of bone growth in pediatric patients and the development of osteoporosis at any age. Growth and development of infants and children on prolonged corticosteroid therapy should be carefully observed. Special consideration should be given to patients at increased risk of osteoporosis (e.g., postmenopausal women) before initiating corticosteroid therapy.
Inclusion of therapy for osteoporosis prevention or treatment should be considered. To minimize the risk of glucocortoicoid-induced bone loss, the smallest possible effective dosage and duration should be used. Lifestyle modification to reduce the risk of osteoporosis (e.g., cigarette smoking cessation, limitation of alcohol consumption, participation in weight-bearing exercise for 30-60 minutes daily) should be encouraged. Calcium and vitamin D supplementation, bisphosphonate (e.g., alendronate, risedronate), and a weight-bearing exercise program that maintains muscle mass are suitable first-line therapies aimed at reducing the risk of adverse bone effects. Current recommendations suggest that all interventions be initiated in any patient in whom glucocorticoid therapy with at least the equivalent of 5 mg of prednisone for at least 3 months is anticipated; in addition, sex hormone replacement therapy (combined estrogen and progestin in women; testosterone in men) should be offered to such patients who are hypogonadal or in whom replacement is otherwise clinically indicated and biphosphonate therapy should be initiated (if not already) if bone mineral density (BMD) of the lumbar spine and/or hip is below normal.
Although controlled clinical trials have shown corticosteroids to be effective in speeding the resolution of acute exacerbations of multiple sclerosis, they do not show that they affect the ultimate outcome or natural history of the disease. The studies do show that relatively high doses of corticosteroids are necessary to demonstrate a significant effect. (See DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION: Multiple Sclerosis.)
An acute myopathy has been observed with the use of high doses of corticosteroids, most often occurring in patients with disorders of neuromuscular transmission (e.g., myasthenia gravis), or in patients receiving concomitant therapy with neuromuscular blocking drugs (e.g., pancuronium). This acute myopathy is generalized, may involve ocular and respiratory muscles, and may result in quadriparesis. Elevation of creatinine kinase may occur. Clinical improvement or recovery after stopping corticosteroids may require weeks to years.
Psychiatric derangements may appear when corticosteroids are used, ranging from euphoria, insomnia, mood swings, personality changes, and severe depression, to frank psychotic manifestations. Also, existing emotional instability or psychotic tendencies may be aggravated by corticosteroids.
Intraocular pressure may become elevated in some individuals. If steroid therapy is continued for more than 6 weeks, intraocular pressure should be monitored.
Patients should be warned not to discontinue the use of corticosteroids abruptly or without medical supervision. As prolonged use may cause adrenal insufficiency and make patients dependent on corticosteroids, they should advise any medical attendants that they are taking corticosteroids and they should seek medical advice at once should they develop an acute illness including fever or other signs of infection. Following prolonged therapy, withdrawal of corticosteroids may result in symptoms of the corticosteroid withdrawal syndrome including, myalgia, arthralgia, and malaise.
Persons who are on corticosteroids should be warned to avoid exposure to chickenpox or measles. Patients should also be advised that if they are exposed, medical advice should be sought without delay.
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When corticosteroids are administered concomitantly with potassium-depleting agents (e.g., amphotericin B, diuretics), patients should be observed closely for development of hypokalemia. In addition, there have been cases reported in which concomitant use of amphotericin B and hydrocortisone was followed by cardiac enlargement and congestive heart failure.
Macrolide antibiotics have been reported to cause a significant decrease in corticosteroid clearance (see PRECAUTIONS: Drug Interactions: Hepatic Enzyme Inducers, Inhibitors and Substrates).
Concomitant use of anticholinesterase agents (e.g., neostigmine, pyridostigmine) and corticosteroids may produce severe weakness in patients with myasthenia gravis. If possible, anticholinesterase agents should be withdrawn at least 24 hours before initiating corticosteroid therapy. If concomitant therapy must occur, it should take place under close supervision and the need for respiratory support should be anticipated.
Co-administration of corticosteroids and warfarin usually results in inhibition of response to warfarin, although there have been some conflicting reports. Therefore, coagulation indices should be monitored frequently to maintain the desired anticoagulant effect.
Because corticosteroids may increase blood glucose concentrations, dosage adjustments of antidiabetic agents may be required.
Serum concentrations of isoniazid may be decreased.
Since systemic steroids, as well as bupropion, can lower the seizure threshold, concurrent administration should be undertaken only with extreme caution; low initial dosing and small gradual increases should be employed.
Cholestyramine may increase the clearance of corticosteroids.
Increased activity of both cyclosporine and corticosteroids may occur when the two are used concurrently. Convulsions have been reported with this concurrent use.
Patients on digitalis glycosides may be at increased risk of arrhythmias due to hypokalemia.
Estrogens may decrease the hepatic metabolism of certain corticosteroids, thereby increasing their effect.
Post-marketing surveillance reports indicate that the risk of tendon rupture may be increased in patients receiving concomitant fluoroquinolones (e.g., ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin) and corticosteroids, especially in the elderly. Tendon rupture can occur during or after treatment with quinolones.
Drugs which induce cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP 3A4) enzyme activity (e.g., barbiturates, phenytoin, carbamazepine, rifampin) may enhance the metabolism of corticosteroids and require that the dosage of the corticosteroid be increased. Drugs which inhibit CYP 3A4 (e.g., ketoconazole, itraconazole, ritonavir, indinavir, macrolide antibiotics such as erythromycin) have the potential to result in increased plasma concentrations of corticosteroids. Glucocorticoids are moderate inducers of CYP 3A4. Co-administration with other drugs that are metabolized by CYP 3A4 (e.g., indinavir, erythromycin) may increase their clearance, resulting in decreased plasma concentration.
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