Steroids for active myeloma

Steroids are drugs that can be used to help destroy myeloma cells. They can also make chemotherapy and targeted therapies work better. The two most commonly used steroids are prednisolone and dexamethasone.

Steroids may be used on their own or in combination with other drugs. They are usually taken as tablets, but if you have difficulty swallowing them, you can have steroids that dissolve or are liquid.

If you only take small doses of a steroid, you may not have many side effects. If you need larger doses for longer, you may have more.

Side effects can include:

  • indigestion or heartburn – taking your tablets with food or milk can help prevent this, or your doctor may prescribe drugs to help
  • feeling irritable
  • an increased appetite
  • having more energy
  • difficulty sleeping – if you have this, it can help to take your steroids in the morning
  • an increased level of sugar in the blood – you will have regular blood or urine tests to check this, but if you get very thirsty or feel you are passing more urine than usual, tell your doctor.

It’s unusual for people with myeloma to take steroids for a long time. But if you do, you may notice that you put on weight, especially on your face, waist and shoulders. You may also notice other temporary side effects, including water retention, high blood pressure and a slightly greater risk of getting infections.

The side effects of steroids are temporary and will disappear as the dose is reduced.

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