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Use of oral steroid have long been associated with the risk of many health conditions. The risks are there for children taking such medications too. Children who take oral steroids to treat asthma or autoimmune diseases have an increased risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and blood clots, warn researchers from the Rutgers University in the US. The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, examined the records of more than 933,000 US children from ages 1 to 18 with or without autoimmune diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, juvenile arthritis or psoriasis. Among those without an autoimmune disease, about two in three children who received prescriptions for steroids had evidence of asthma.
The rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and blood clots from oral steroids have been studied in large populations of adults. However, researchers say that there are reasons to think these findings might be different in children, who not only tend to take steroids differently than adults but also have much lower baseline risks of developing these same cardiovascular and metabolic conditions. This study allowed researchers to put numbers on the association between oral steroids and rare, but potentially serious, complications in children.
The researchers found that children who were receiving high steroid doses experienced these complications at much higher rates than children taking low doses or who had taken steroids previously. Among the complications studied, high blood pressure occurred most commonly with steroid treatment. All of these complications were more common among children with autoimmune diseases, independent of the steroid effect. While children receiving high-dose steroids were at substantially higher risk for developing diabetes, high blood pressure or blood clots relative to children not taking these medicines, the absolute risks of these complications were still small. The vast majority of children taking brief courses of steroids for conditions such as asthma, for instance, will not experience these complications.
Steroids are usually prescribed to reduce inflammation in the body and will ease symptoms like swelling, pain and stiffness. It is commonly used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout or any other autoimmune conditions where the immune system causes inflammation in the body. It is usually given for a short time to prevent and treat flare-ups of symptoms.
Common side-effects of steroid medications include blurred vision, easy bruising, development of cataracts or glaucoma and sleeping problems. It may also cause hypertension and insomnia. Increase in appetite and associated weight gain, a low resistance to infection, muscle fatigue and osteoporosis are other adverse effects of steroid drugs. You may also experience a feeling of restlessness and sudden mood swings. Some people may suffer from stomach irritation or even bleeding. Water retention is common as is a swollen, puffy face. If you are a diabetic patient, you may experience a worsening of your condition.
(With inputs from IANS)