Corticosteroid anti-inflammatory meds have become very popular today, thanks to their truly unique qualities of removing inflammatory processes in a short time. Corticosteroids are substances of hormonal origin; the creation of them is performed by the adrenal glands. Synthetic versions of these drugs are used to treat inflammation of various tissues (skin, joints and much more) and allergic reactions.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a term that refers to the reaction of the immune system. The immunity can be considered as a “police service” of an organism that has access to many places, and also suppresses or activates certain physiological processes.
Strengthening the body, its recovery, growth and protection – all these processes are related to inflammation. Inflammation is useful in small amounts, but if it is activated when it is not needed, the body begins to harm itself on the level of its cells.
In the human body, balance of inflammation and anti-inflammatory processes should be observed. Too much inflammation leads to self-injury of cells and tissues. If the inflammation is not very pronounced, the body becomes vulnerable to various infectious diseases. In many people, the level of inflammation is elevated. Therefore, anti-inflammatory drugs, such as corticosteroids, are of great importance now.
According to a recent study conducted at the University of Linköping (Sweden) corticosteroids can stimulate the regeneration of a damaged tendon, but only if they are applied at the right moment. The results of this research are available on the Internet (PubMed website). “It’s well known that corticosteroids suppress healing, but we believe that they can also have a strong positive effect. Timing is very important.”, P. Aspenberg, a professor at the University of Linköping, said.
Inflammation has a significant role in the regeneration of an injured tendon. During the initial stage, a strong inflammatory process occurs in the damaged site, as several types of immune cells are gathered inside the wound. This place causes painful sensations and is covered by swelling. After a while, the situation changes: the body begins to actively “build” new tissues, replacing a traumatic defect. Previous researches have shown that anti-inflammatory medicaments, such as dexamethasone (a drug that belongs to corticosteroids), negatively affect healing processes. However, when Danish scientists applied corticosteroid treatment simultaneously with the onset of the recovery phase, they found that the quality of the collagen tendon fibers was better after the end of the therapy.
“When dexamethasone was used during the recovery phase, the tissues of the tendons became twice stronger than those in the control group, in which dexamethasone was not used,” Parmis Blomgran, a postgraduate student and lead author of the article, said.
What are corticosteroids and how they work?
Steroids definition includes hormones of steroid nature, such as testosterone (a male hormone, which is commonly used during testosterone therapy and for sports purposes), progesterone (female hormone), and corticosteroids (hormones produced in the adrenal cortex of vertebrates).
Synthetic corticosteroids have a multifaceted effect on the body. Their mechanism is connected with the presence in the membranes of cells of special steroid receptors.
As for the effects, corticosteroids can provide:
- Anti-inflammatory effect due to a deterioration of the synthesis of inflammatory mediators.
- Influence on all types of metabolism, including water-electrolyte, lipid, protein and carbohydrate ones.
- Anti-allergic action, due to the ability to stabilize cell membranes and prevent the formation of mediators of allergies.
- Effect on the cardiovascular system, increasing the sensitivity of the walls of blood vessels and heart muscle to noradrenaline and adrenaline and thereby affecting the level of blood pressure.
- Stimulation of the formation of platelets and erythrocytes.
- Suppression of the production of sex hormones, as well as reduction of the sensitivity of organs and tissues to hormones produced by the thyroid gland.
How do corticosteroids decrease inflammation and do they have side effects?
According to the research by Peter J Barnes (2006), corticosteroids inhibit many inflammatory genes that are active in chronic inflammatory ailments, primarily by reversing histone acetylation of operated inflammatory genes. It is by this way they reduce inflammation.
Corticosteroids have various side effects. More often such medicines can cause:
- Edema caused by sodium retention in the body.
- Increased blood pressure and sugar levels.
- An exacerbation of gastritis or a peptic ulcer.
- Dermatitis, acne, and in especially severe cases, the atrophy of the skin.
- The inhibition of tissue regeneration, which causes wound healing to slow down (but with proper timing it can be prevented, as mentioned above).
- Mood disturbance, depression, neurological disorders.
- Oppression of the adrenal glands and, as a consequence, deterioration of various types of metabolism, weight gain.
Do anabolic steroids reduce inflammation?
Anabolic steroids don’t reduce inflammation. They have a completely different mechanism of action when compared with corticosteroids.
Most people believe that anabolic steroids, such as Methenolone enanthate, are used only in sports. But in fact, all drugs were developed for medical purposes. For example, they can be used for hormone replacement therapy associated with the decrease in testosterone levels (when men use testosterone cream and other similar drugs), for the treatment of muscular dystrophy, for complex treatment of HIV/AIDS (a well-known example is Oxandrolone), and even for using in anti-burn therapy. Some drugs, such as Trenbolone, have been developed for veterinary purposes. But now, indeed, they’re used primarily in sports. Athletes develop different cycles, which can consist of one or several drugs. After the end of a cycle, PCT steroids (post-cycle therapy drugs) should be used to prevent rebound phenomenon and some side effects.