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Asthma

Cortisone Effects

03/20/2003

Question:

I`m a lifelong sufferer of asthma. I`m no 43 years old and have developed a severe upper respitatory viral infection. At first, my physician put me on prednisone. But after 3 days on it, my heart rate shot up. So he`s taken me off prednisone and gave me a cortisone shot.

Two questions: 1) What`s the difference between prednisone and cortisone? For some reason, I thought they were the same. 2) I`m trying to picture in my mind what the cortisone is doing inside my body. I tend to think of it keeping my airways open so I don`t develop pneumonia or have an asthma attack. Anything you can add to this or correct would be most appreciated.

Thanks!

Answer:

Asthma is an inflammatory disease of the airways of unknown cause. The inflammation makes the smooth muscle surrounding the airways more susceptible to contraction. Prednisone and cortisone belong to a group of medications (often referred to as corticosteroids, glucocorticoids or `steroids`) that can reduce the extent of inflammation and lessen the susceptibility and magnitude of airway narrowing. Thus, glucocorticoids can indeed help `keep your airways open`. Although the various glucocorticoids used for asthma therapy have similar anti-inflammatory actions, their relative potencies and routes of administration can differ. 

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Response by:

Dennis   McGraw, MD Dennis McGraw, MD
Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati