Fludrocortisone is a high-strength steroid drug prescribed to treat the symptoms of corticosteroid deficiencies. People with adrenal gland disorders such as Addison's disease or congenital defects generally need to take fludrocortisone daily to avoid serious health problems. Among other effects, it reduces the amount of sodium lost through urine and improves low blood pressure symptoms. The risks of side effects are low and most people who take the drug experience significant, lasting symptom relief in a matter of weeks.
The adrenal glands produce natural steroids called glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids that help to regulate many bodily functions, including memory, blood pressure, immune system responses, and metabolism. Some people who have adrenal gland problems experience a number of adverse health effects due to poor steroid production. Fludrocortisone is basically a synthetic version of biological corticoids, and it works by supplementing the body's natural production. Dependent systems respond to fludrocortisone in the same way as if the adrenal glands were functioning properly.
Most adult patients who are prescribed fludrocortisone are instructed to take one tablet daily by mouth, though exact dosage amounts and frequencies may be adjusted based on a number of factors. Doctors take into consideration their patients' ages, specific ailments, and responses to initial low doses of fludrocortisone to determine appropriate amounts. Since Addison's disease usually cannot be cured, many patients need to take medications daily for life to avoid complications.
The majority of side effects associated with fludrocortisone are related to increases in sodium and fluid retention. They may include abdominal bloating, mild swelling in the feet, ankles, and hands, fast weight gain, and high blood pressure. Other possible side effects include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and joint pain. Some people also experience unusual body and facial hair growth, acne, and easy bruising. Adverse effects are most likely to occur in the first few weeks of treatment while the body adjusts to increased corticosteroid levels.
It is important for patients to follow their doctors' instructions and attend scheduled checkups while taking fludrocortisone. Any unusual side effects should be reported so the physician can check for complications and adjust dosage amounts if necessary. A doctor may consider placing the patient on a low-salt diet and a guided exercise schedule to help reduce the risks of health problems. If fainting, excessive swelling, or an allergic reaction occurs, a person should stop taking the drug immediately and seek emergency medical care.