Cortisone is a hormonal steroid naturally produced by the adrenal gland and manufactured synthetically as a drug in the corticosteroid class of drugs. Corticosteroids act as anti-inflammatories, reducing the inflammation caused by a number of conditions, and also suppress the immune system. The production of cortisone was discovered at the Mayo Clinic and first manufactured by Merck & Co. It is available by prescription in the form of tablets and topical creams and is also administered by injection.
Injections of cortisone are commonly administered to patients suffering from localized joint or muscle pain resulting from conditions such as carpal tunnel, and injury to excessively used joints, such as the shoulder or knee. As opposed to oral doses, which are absorbed by the body gradually over a period of time, injections allow for immediate and targeted relief of localized inflammation and pain. These injections often contain an additional pain reliever intended to provide immediate numbing and relief from pain, while the corticosteroid works within a day or two. Cortisone injections can provide lasting relief for several weeks.
Oral doses are more effective at treating widespread inflammation and joint pain, such as arthritis. In addition to treating pain and inflammation caused by arthritis, injury, and other conditions, cortisone is sometimes used to treat endocrine disorders, allergic reactions, skin conditions and disorders, as well as some respiratory disorders and other conditions.
Side effects of cortisone vary and some can be dangerous. Adverse reactions include sodium and fluid retention, potassium loss, muscle weakness, abdominal discomfort, and immune system suppression. While cortisone acetate may be prescribed in immunosuppressant doses, the complications of a suppressed immune system can occur in any patient, especially with long-term use. These complications include infection, vulnerability to infection and viruses, and difficulty with wounds healing.
A medical professional may recommend cortisone in any form to treat a variety of conditions and complications. Patients should remember to tell their healthcare providers about any other medications they may be taking. It is also important to remember not to have any “live” virus immunizations while taking corticosteroids.