Friday, December 4, 2015

Prednisone Burst

I thought I would blog briefly about my experience with prednisone bursts. A prednisone burst is a  week or two of taking a medication called prednisone. It is intended to reduce the symptoms of asthma for a period of time. Unfortunately it is not a cure and, like all medications, it does have side effects. But it usually reduces the symptoms significantly at least for a while.

I'm currently on day #3 of a one week 20 mg burst. I think it is working because I am already feeling better and hardly ever cough. I've taken quite a few prednisone bursts for my asthma over the years. I call it being "in the zone." My main side effect is becoming pretty hyper and optimistic - which has led me to creating this blog and not something to complain about.

Prednisone comes in the form of small tablets which you need to take with food. It is fairly inexpensive as far as pharmaceuticals go. There is lots of useful information about prednisone on the internet. I consult mainstream sites such as, webmd, the mayo clinic. The Canadian Asthma Society is very reliable but it currently does not seem to have much on prednisone. Here is what some of these sites say:  "Prednisone is a corticosteroid. It prevents the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation. It also suppresses the immune system." The item  mainly focuses on the long-term use of small doses ( 2 mg or less per day for weeks or even years) for a whole variety of illnesses. I've known several people who took this prescription. My mother was one of them. Although this dosage can be used for asthma, I've never taken long-term prednisone - only short bursts. The article lists the many possible side effects of long-term use. Don't read it - it will scare you death. The most common side effects of long-term use seem to be weakening of the bones and susceptibility to infection.Your best precautions are taking calcium and avoiding sick people.  "If you have serious worsening of asthma symptoms (an asthma attack), your doctor may prescribe a brief course of oral steroids such as prednisone. Oral steroids may also be prescribed when your asthma symptoms worsen but you do not require hospitalization.... Oral prednisone is a systemic steroid. That means that after taking prednisone by mouth (orally), it is absorbed in the body, unlike inhaled steroids (anti-inflammatory asthma inhalers) that go straight to the lungs." webmd says that short bursts are fairly safe. The main negative effects are:

My current prednisone burst of 20 mg a day for a week is quite mild compared to the one I had last May. I took 50 mg a day for a week and then smaller doses for another week to taper off. That May 2015 burst made me pretty crazy. I had enough energy to light up a whole city! My body actually shook and I couldn't stop talking. Nonetheless, Mike and I went RVing and boating and mostly had an excellent time. After a few days of treatment I could do all sorts of activities - like long hikes and swimming off the boat. Prior to the burst, I could hardly walk a block and coughed incessantly.

Here we are  rafted to our friends' big sailboat in early June. Unfortunately, as always seems to happen, the good effects eventually wore off so I'm back in the zone again. This time my severe asthma specialist intervened early so I am taking a smaller dose.

My GP calls prednisone "the drug of last resort." It does not make you better but it does lessen symptoms of an inflammatory disease for a period of time. I sometimes think of it as an "evil princess" who makes you feel so good - but just for a while - while she works her evil magic on the rest of you. On the other hand, a friend I met through the National Asthma Patients Alliance told me that his most recent prednisone burst had been no more help than a dead fish on his head. Other people say it makes them to feel depressed. It's different for everyone and, actually, different every time you take it..

The great thing about this prednisone burst is that I also have a new possible diagnosis for what is causing my asthma - candida yeast in my lungs. So I am also taking an anti-fungal medication to hopefully treat this condition. I must admit I'm very hopeful and I don't think it is just the prednisone talking.  More about my experience with the anti-yeast drug fluconazole next time.

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