The Steroid Curse: Prednisone Vs. Methylprednisolone
I have always had a love-hate relationship with prednisone.
I don’t like to be on it. I was miserable when I was on it all the time, but not being on it, my pain significantly increased.
I was really stubborn, though, and when I was on prednisone on an "as needed" basis, I probably only took it once a month.
The last time I was at my rheumatologist’s, he suggested going back on steroids full time, but rather than putting me back on prednisone, he suggested that I try methylprednisolone.
He told me that while prednisone is the go-to, default steroid in the United States, methylprednisolone is the default in Europe.
You might think a steroid is a steroid, because that is sort of what I thought, too, but my experience suggests otherwise.
A cursory search of PubMed, using the search term "prednisone" reveals 43,591 results and using the search term "methylprednisolone" reveals 20,165 results. This is particularly telling, I think, that there is almost twice as much information about prednisone as there is about methylprednisolone.
We are all familiar with the weightless feeling that prednisone gives - like I feel like the weight of the whole world is on my shoulders and then I take prednisone and I don’t feel that anymore. But what I have felt and experienced is constant hunger, paranoia, weight gain, the tell-tale moon face - you name it.
The only side effect I have really noticed from the methylprednisolone is that I sweat like a 400-pound man, almost constantly, even when I am sitting down and doing nothing.
Some people may be more familiar with IV Medrol or Solu-Medrol, which is basically the same thing as methylprednisolone, only given by IV instead of orally. I had three days of Solu-Medrol infusions when I first got sick, and I felt great for a month. Granted, when my parents couldn’t find the car when we were leaving the hospital, I sat down in the middle of the parking lot and couldn’t stop laughing like a hyena, but at least I wasn’t feeling any pain.
Unfortunately, I can’t find much information to explain why prednisone is the go-to steroid in America and methylprednisolone is the go-to steroid in other countries.
But what I can say is that my experience with methylprednisolone has been better than the experience I have had with prednisone. I can only speak to my own experience, but if you have had issues with the side-effects of prednisone, it may be worth talking to your doctor to see if you can be put on another type of steroid.
If you have to be on prednisone, I highly recommend that book, "Coping with Prednisone," which made me feel less crazy about the side effects I was having when I first started taking steroids.
Leslie wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).