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Steroid treatment for myeloma

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This page is about steroid treatment for myeloma. There is information about

 

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Steroid treatment for myeloma

Steroids are substances made naturally in the body. They can also be made artificially and used as drugs. Steroids are commonly used with chemotherapy to treat myeloma. Doctors have found that treatment works better when steroids and chemotherapy drugs are given in combination.

Side effects of steroids

You will not be taking the steroids for very long without a break, so you are not likely to have bad side effects from them. But there are quite a few side effects you may notice. These can include increased appetite, increased energy and wakefulness, indigestion and mood swings.

When 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. Steroids are irritating to the lining of your stomach. You must tell your doctor or specialist nurse if you get stomach pains after taking steroids.

Your doctor or nurse will be looking out for other side effects of your steroids including a raised blood pressure and sugar in your urine.

It is important for any doctor treating you, for any reason, to know that you are taking steroids. Your doctor will give you a card to carry, saying you are taking steroids. They will ask you to carry the card with you at all times.

 

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How you have steroids

Steroids are substances made naturally in the body. They can also be made artificially. Steroids are commonly used with chemotherapy to treat myeloma. Doctors have found that treatment works better when steroids are given along with chemotherapy drugs.

Some steroids are taken as tablets. Others are given by injection into a vein (intravenously). Dexamethasone, prednisolone and methylprednisolone are the steroid drugs most commonly used for myeloma.

 

Side effects of steroids

You will not be taking the steroids for very long without a break, so you are not likely to have bad side effects from them. But there are quite a few side effects you may notice. These can include

  • Increased appetite
  • Increased energy and wakefulness
  • Indigestion
  • Mood swings

When 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. Steroids can cause water retention. It is the extra fluid in your body that causes these symptoms.

Steroid tablets can inflame the lining of your stomach. You should not take the steroids on a completely empty stomach. Try to have at least a slice of bread, or a glass of milk with them. Preferably, you should take them with a meal. But when you are having chemotherapy, it is not always easy to manage food. For this reason, your doctor may give you another tablet to stop the steroids damaging your stomach. This may be ranitidine (Zantac), cimetidine (Tagomet), omeprazole (Losec), lansoprazole (Zoton) or pantoprazole (Protium). You must tell your doctor or nurse if you get stomach pains after taking steroids.

You may find that your mood changes when you are having steroids. Some people can feel very tearful or irritable and find it difficult to control their emotions. If these symptoms are a problem for you, talk to your doctor or nurse.

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

  • Raised blood pressure
  • Sugar in your urine or raised sugar in your blood

Steroids can raise the level of sugar in your blood and doctors call this steroid induced diabetes. This doesn’t mean you will be diabetic. Your sugar levels usually go back to normal shortly after you stop taking steroids. You may be asked to test your urine for sugar. Or you may need to take samples to the hospital for testing.

Your resistance to infection is lowered, so it is best to avoid people with colds and flu while you are taking steroids.

These side effects are unlikely to happen unless you have been taking steroids for some time. And the effects are usually temporary. They should go away when you stop taking the steroids.

It is important for any doctor treating you, for any reason, to know that you are taking steroids. So, in case of emergencies your doctor or nurse will give you a card to carry, saying that you are taking steroids. They will ask you to carry the card with you at all times.

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Updated: 26 November 2013