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Commonly Prescribed Drugs - Side Effects


Steroids, such as prednisolone, have been shown to be effective in managing some kidney disorders, such as nephrotic syndrome, and following transplantation. Unfortunately, they can have side effects.

Cushingoid effect

Named after the Canadian physician who first noted the effect, there is a tendency for the cheeks and stomach to increase in size, whilst the limbs become thin. Some patients develop facial hair and the face is flushed. Appetite may increase. Fortunately, most of these side effects improve if the drug can be reduced.

Bone problems

A common effect of long term use of steroids is osteoporosis, thinning of the bones. Bone density in people taking steroids can be measured with a special X-ray machine (called a DEXA scan), and anyone on steroids should ask their doctor if they should have one of these scans to check the density of their bones.

AVN (avascular necrosis) is a distressing condition of the joints, especially the hips. Pain on walking can vary from mild to severe, uncontrolled by painkillers. Replacement of hip, knee and shoulder joints have very good results.


A few patients may find they have raised blood pressure and there is a tendency to diabetes, particularly if there is a family history to this condition. Some patients find they have mood changes, a state of euphoria especially post-transplant when high doses of steroids may be used. Reducing the dose may be helpful in these circumstances. Steroids may also cause the levels of cholesterol or other fats in the blood to rise. Blood tests should be done to check the cholesterol level

The National Kidney Federation cannot accept responsibility for information provided. The above is for guidance only. Patients are advised to seek further information from their own doctor.

NKF Controlled Document No. 86: Side Effects written: 28/06/1999 last reviewed: 05/05/2014