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What are Steroids? Know the Benefits and Side Effects of them

by Shatakshi Gupta

Steroids are organic compounds that occur naturally in the human body, plants and animals. Steroids in the human body are mainly produced by the adrenal cortex, testes and ovaries.  However, the placenta also produces them during the period of pregnancy. Steroids that occur naturally in the human body are called steroid hormones. Steroid hormones help in reducing inflammation, pain and stress in the body. However, they are also made artificially and are used as medicine.

Through this post, we will be telling you about the types, benefits and side effects of steroid medicines.

Usefulness of Steroids

Reduces inflammation

Redness and swelling occur in the infected area due to bacterial or virus infection. However, with the right use of steroids, we can reduce redness and swelling. For example, diseases such as asthma and eczema cause inflammatory conditions, which can be reduced by the use of steroids. Corticosteroids drugs are more effective for this.

Reduces the activity of the immune system

There are some autoimmune diseases in which antibodies attack their own cells. For example, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus disease. In this case also the correct use of corticosteroids, can weaken the immune system and protect us from diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

Increases muscle mass –

Some anabolic steroids medicines help in treating delayed puberty and increasing muscle mass.

Helps to treat delayed puberty –

There are certain genetic disorders in which puberty is delayed in children. Delayed puberty in children occurs when puberty does not begin until the age of 14. Kallmann syndrome is a good example of this. However, steroid medications help in the treatment of delayed puberty.

How is steroid medicine used?

Steroids drugs can be consumed in different forms, like in:

  •  Tablet form
  •  Form of syrup
  •  As a liquid
  •  As an inhaler
  •  In the form of a nasal spray
  •  As an injection
  •  As a cream
  • Or in the form of lotions and gels

Read more: All You Want To Know About Diet Pills!

In India, it is against the law to use steroid drugs without doctor’s prescription, as the wrong use of it can lead to adverse effects to the health.

Types of steroids

There are mainly two types of steroids- Corticosteroids and Anabolic steroids. Both of these steroids can be synthetically made into drugs that are used for different medical conditions. Steroid medicines do not cure a disease from the root but it helps in mitigating the symptoms of those diseases such as swelling, pain and stiffness.

What are Corticosteroids? 

These are naturally occurring hormones, produced in the adrenal glands located above the kidneys.  However, they are also produced anthropogenically as medicines.

There are two types of corticosteroids, which are known as glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids.

Functions of corticosteroids

Corticosteroids drugs help in reducing sodium levels, inflammation, and stress in the body. Apart from this, these steroids help in maintaining carbohydrate metabolism, protein metabolism, blood electrolyte level etc. Glucocorticoids, in general, regulate metabolism and inflammation;  Whereas mineralocorticoids regulate sodium and water levels.

What are Anabolic steroid? 

Anabolic steroids are synthetic steroids, similar to the naturally occurring sex hormone (testosterone) in men. The hormone testosterone is needed to develop and maintain male sexual characteristics, such as facial hair, fuller voice, and muscle growth.  Whereas, estrogens develop sexual characteristics in women.

The average male body contains about 300 to 1,000 nanogram per decilitre (ng/dL) of this hormone. In men, testosterone is mainly produced in the testis. Some testosterone is also produced in women’s bodies. Testosterone in women helps with the maintenance and repair of reproductive tissues, and bone mass. Typically, women have about 1/10th to 1/20th of the amount of testosterone in their bodies than men.

Functions of anabolic steroids

Health providers use anabolic steroids in men to treat delayed puberty, muscle disease, etc. Anabolic steroids have been shown to be effective in treating diseases that damage muscles, such as cancer and AIDS. Apart from this, anabolic steroids also help in increasing muscle mass.

Some people use anabolic steroids incorrectly. For example, some athletes use anabolic steroids to increase their energy, power and weight. In addition, some bodybuilders also take anabolic steroids for muscle growth and strength.

These people take steroids orally or inject them into the muscles, or apply them to the skin in the form of gels or creams. The dosage taken by these people is 10 to 100 times higher than the dosage prescribed by the doctor.

Advantages of Steroids

Benefits of Corticosteroids

Doctors may use corticosteroids for a number of reasons which may benefit in treating the following diseases:

  • Addison’s disease occurs when the body does not make enough cortisol. Corticosteroids help reduce the symptoms of Addison’s disease.
  • Corticosteroids also helps in suppressing the immune system to reduce the chances of the organ being rejected.
  • Corticosteroids assists in the reduction of inflammation in the body. They may be used to reduce inflammation of the lungs for COVID-19 patients.
  • Some diseases are such in which the body’s antibodies attack and damage its own cells. Corticosteroids drugs help in prevention of this damage.
  • Apart from this, synthetic corticosteroid drugs are also used in the treatment of allergies, asthma and so on.

Benefits of Anabolic steroid

Anabolic steroids are beneficial in the following ways to the body.

  • Anabolic steroids increase protein synthesis leading to an increase in muscle tissue.
  • Reduces body fat percentage, thereby reducing excess weight.
  • Anabolic steroids increase muscle strength and power.
  • These steroids help in quick healing of the injury or wounds.
  • Anabolic steroids help to improve bone mineral density as well as increase muscle endurance.
  • Anabolic steroids increase red blood cells.
  • There are many diseases that can cause muscle loss, such as AIDS, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer. But muscle loss in patients can be prevented to a great extent by using anabolic steroids.

Side effects of Steroids

The side effects of steroids depends on the dosage, type of steroid and duration of treatment. Remember, that over dose of steroids can be very harmful for the health.

Side Effects of Corticosteroids

Common side effects of corticosteroid medications include–

  •  muscle weakness
  •  thinning of the skin
  •  the onset, or worsening, of diabetes
  •  onset, or worsening, of high blood pressure
  •  nervousness, restlessness and difficulty sleeping,
  •  increased appetite and weight gain
  •  mood swings and mood swings
  •  acne
  •  blurred vision
  •  eye disease
  •  stomach irritation
  •  body hair growth
  •  susceptibility to infection
  •  delayed wound healing
  •  stomach ulcer or stomach irritation
  •  weakening of bones (osteoporosis)
  •  suffer from depression
  •  stunted growth of children

Also read: Eating these Foods on an Empty Stomach causes Abdominal Bloating

Side effects of Anabolic Steroids

Incorrect use of anabolic steroids can cause many health problems. These problems can be-

  • diseases like high blood pressure, blood clots, heart attack, stroke and artery damage.
  • the development of heart disease by increasing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels.
  • increase irritability and aggression, with people being more angry and verbally aggressive.
  • decreased sperm production which can lead to infertility.
  • cause regular hair breakage.
  • girls can develop masculine characteristics like, heavy and deep voice, excessive hair growth on their body.
  • cause changes in the menstrual cycle of women, decreased breast size, decreased sperm production in men, decreased size and function of the testes (hypogonadism). Or the testicles may shrink.
  • injecting anabolic steroids can lead to viral infections, also diseases like HIV and hepatitis B and C, due to contaminated needles.
  • cause liver damage, tumours and cysts, all of which damage the liver.
  • lead to acne, loss of scalp as well as oily hair and skin.
  • aggravate mental disorders like anxiety, hypomania and depression.

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