Everyone is familiar with the word “steroid” but few really know what it means. It is a loaded word given its history of controversies. The truth is that this is simply a generic term for compounds that have 17 carbon atoms bound together in 4 rings. Steroids are able to regulate the behavior of receptor cells or retain cell membrane integrity. Several types exist in nature including sex steroids like testosterone and estrogen, as well as corticosteroids that are responsible for managing immune function and electrolyte balance. Then there are the anabolic steroids which are synthetically produced to imitate male sex hormones.
This type of drug is available only through a doctor’s prescription given its potency range of potential side effects. It is important for people to use them as intended with the proper dose and duration. Done in this manner, it is an extremely helpful treatment for men who have extremely low testosterone levels due to HIV infection, obesity, pituitary disorders, excess blood iron, and inflammatory diseases. Unfortunately, they are often abused by those who wish to benefit from their muscle-building ability. They can help athletes perform better in their games. They can also make bodybuilders pack on more muscles to impress the judges.
However, abuse leads to great risks. Side effects range from trivial to dangerous. For example, a person may experience severe acne because of steroid usage. Manic behavior may be observed, as well as other behavioral changes like dramatic mood swings. The body can morph into something that resembles the opposite sex. Men tend to develop breasts while seeing a shrinkage of their testicles. Women tend to grow much more hair around their body and develop male pattern baldness. Menstruation will become irregular and infertility is a distinct possibility. Some might even develop high blood pressure and cancer.
Although corticosteroids are found in nature, it is often made in the labs as well so that patients who need them can get their dose. They are quick-acting compounds that are capable of blocking the creation of substances in the body which are responsible for inflammatory and allergic reactions. There are different modes of delivery including ingestion, inhalation, and injection. They are excellent in fighting autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Even blood disorders like anemia, leukemia, and lymphoma can be treated with these steroids. They may also be used for prostate cancer, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and various allergies.
There is no doubt about the benefits of corticosteroids but people must also be warned about their side effects. Doctors and patients need to monitor if there are sudden changes like acne breakouts, substantial weight gain, tendon rupture, muscle weakness, thin skin, stomach ulcers, and bouts of depression. This class of drugs can also cause individuals to develop diabetes, osteoporosis, cataracts, hypertension, and infection. If any of these are observed, then doctors may reduce the dosage or stop their use completely and opt for alternative treatments. It is usually pulled out as soon as possible to allow body functions to normalize quickly.