Methylprednisolone vs. prednisone: What’s the difference?

Both medications reduce inflammation, and people use them to relieve the symptoms of many health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, and eczema.

In this article, we look at the differences between methylprednisolone and prednisone.

Methylprednisolone vs. prednisone

Methylprednisolone and prednisone are both corticosteroids. Corticosteroids can reduce inflammation in the body and relieve related symptoms, such as body pain, swelling, and stiffness.

Corticosteroids reduce inflammation by suppressing the immune system. They are a standard treatment for autoimmune conditions, which often cause inflammation in the body.

Doctors may prescribe methylprednisolone and prednisone to treat the following conditions:

  • endocrine or thyroid conditions
  • RA
  • some types of osteoarthritis
  • ankylosing spondylitis
  • systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • eczema, or atopic dermatitis
  • severe psoriasis
  • allergic reactions, including asthma
  • multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • colitis

Methylprednisolone and prednisone are both common medications that are similar in price. They can come in branded or generic forms. As with most drugs, the generic versions cost less but still comprise the same substances.

Methylprednisolone is stronger than prednisone:

  • prednisone is four times as potent as cortisol, a steroid hormone that is present in the body
  • methylprednisolone is five times as potent as cortisol

As methylprednisolone and prednisone are both very potent, they can cause a range of side effects, including:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • thin, fragile skin
  • acne
  • slow healing of wounds
  • irregular menstruation
  • insomnia
  • mood swings
  • depression
  • vision problems
  • seizures
  • infection
  • menstrual difficulties
  • muscle and joint pain
  • eye irritation
  • decreased sexual desire
  • heartburn
  • changes in personality
  • appetite changes
  • twitching or tightening muscles
  • shaky hands
  • irregular heartbeat
  • stomach pain

The side effects of prednisone can also include losing touch with reality. For this reason, doctors may prescribe methylprednisolone to someone with a risk of mental health conditions instead of prednisone to reduce the risk of psychosis.

Due to these side effects, doctors may avoid prescribing these corticosteroids. They may only recommend them if nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are not effective or if a person has severe inflammation.

Corticosteroids have a widespread effect on the body. As a result, they can cause complications, some of which are severe.

Taking corticosteroids for more than a month, which doctors consider long-term use, increases the likelihood of adverse effects occurring.

It is important to note that these drugs can reduce the activity of the immune system, which makes it harder for the body to fight infection.

Complications are more likely to affect people who have or have had certain medical conditions, such as:

  • tuberculosis (TB)
  • cataracts
  • high blood pressure
  • threadworm infection
  • heart disease
  • mental health problems, such as depression
  • bone weakness
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • diabetes
  • seizures
  • ulcers
  • infections
  • kidney, liver, intestinal, or thyroid disease

People may also experience complications if they have recently had surgery.

Summary

Methylprednisolone and prednisone are corticosteroids that can have a significant impact on the body. They are effective medications for reducing inflammation.

Both medications can produce a range of side effects and complications. Methylprednisolone is more potent than prednisone.

Doctors can give methylprednisolone orally or through an injection, while prednisone is only available as an oral treatment. Methylprednisolone may, therefore, be more appropriate for people with digestive issues that stop them from taking or fully absorbing oral drugs.

A doctor will decide which medication is best in each situation. People should ensure that their doctor is aware of all their previous health conditions and current medications when discussing taking corticosteroids.

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