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Find out how steroids work, and how they can be used to treat non Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

What they are

Steroids are substances made naturally in the body. They can also be made artificially and used as medicines. Doctors prescribe steroids for many different reasons. And they are used for many different illnesses and conditions.

There are different types of steroids, including prednisolone, dexamethasone or methylprednisolone. You can have them as tablets or injections.

How steroids are used in NHL

In non Hodgkin lymphoma you are likely to have steroids along with your chemotherapy drugs. Doctors have found that the treatment is more successful when you take steroids with your chemotherapy.

When you take them with chemotherapy, you only have steroids for a few days or a week at a time. But you will have to take them each time you have a chemotherapy treatment. So you will be on and off steroids for quite a while.

Side effects

Because you will not be taking the steroids for very long without a break, you are not likely to have bad side effects from them. Most side effects are unlikely to happen unless you have been taking steroids for some time. And they are temporary. They will go away when you stop taking the steroids. But there are a few side effects you may notice. These can include:

  • Having a bigger appetite
  • Having more energy
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Indigestion
  • Changes in your mood (feeling irritable or sad)

If you have been taking steroids for some time you may notice some swelling in your hands, feet or eyelids. You may also put on weight. These symptoms are caused by extra fluid in your body due to the steroids.

Your doctor will be looking out for other side effects of your steroids. These are

  • Raised blood pressure
  • An increased risk of picking up infections
  • A raised level of sugar in your blood and sugar in your urine

Your doctor or nurse may ask you to test your urine for sugar. Or you may need to take urine samples to the hospital for testing. Steroids can change the way your body handles sugar. This change is temporary. It will stop when you stop having steroids.

Because your resistance to infection is lowered, it is best to avoid people with colds and flu while you are taking steroids, and while you are on chemotherapy. You should take care to avoid chicken pox, unless you know that you are immune because you've had it yourself. The virus that causes chicken pox can make you very ill if you have a weakened immune system.

Steroid card

It is important for any doctor treating you, for any reason, to know you are taking steroids. So, in case of emergencies, your doctor will give you a card to carry to say you are taking steroids. You should carry the card with you at all times.

Information and help

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