Osteoarthritis is a common degenerative joint disease that causes localized pain that sometimes is severe. It is most common in the knees and hips, and is more frequent in older people. Prednisone is an effective treatment, but long-term use can cause side effects.
The primary treatment for osteoarthritis pain is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen. The cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme inhibitor celecoxib (Celebrex) is another option.
Corticosteroids such as prednisone are very effective at rapidly reducing pain and inflammation. Because of their anti-inflammatory qualities, corticosteroids are prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis more often than for osteoarthritis.
Prednisone can be taken orally, but in osteoarthritis cases it is more commonly injected directly into the affected joints. Injections usually are administered for as short a time frame as appropriate, or spaced months apart.
When prednisone is used for over six months, the drug is associated with loss of bone density (osteoporosis). If a bone scan indicates osteoporosis, the patient may be able to continue prednisone therapy by taking etidronate and calcium supplements to prevent further bone loss.
Common Side Effects
Other common prednisone side effects with long-term use include acne, weight gain, fatty deposits in the face, thinning skin and stretch marks.
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