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Steroid injections

Steroid injections, also called corticosteroid injections, are anti-inflammatory medicines used to treat a range of conditions.

They can be used to treat problems such as joint painarthritis, sciatica and inflammatory bowel disease.

Steroid injections are only given by healthcare professionals. Common examples include hydrocortisone, triamcinolone and methylprednisolone.

How steroid injections are given

Steroid injections are usually given by a specialist doctor in hospital.

They can be given in several different ways, including:

The injections normally take a few days to start working, although some work in a few hours. The effect usually wears off after a few months.

If you're having an injection to relieve pain, it may also contain local anaesthetic. This provides immediate pain relief that lasts a few hours.

You should be able to go home soon after the injection. You may need to rest the treated body part for a few days.

Side effects of steroid injections

Possible side effects of steroid injections depend on where the injection is given.

Side effects of injections into the joints, muscles or spine can include:

Epidural injections can also very occasionally give you a pounding headache that's only relieved by lying down. This should get better on its own, but tell your specialist if you get it.

Side effects of injections given into the blood tend to be similar to side effects of steroid tablets, such as increased appetite, mood changes and difficulty sleeping.

You can report any suspected side effect to a UK safety scheme.

Who can have steroid injections

Most people can have steroid injections.

Tell your doctor before having treatment if you:

Steroid injections may not always be suitable in these cases, although your doctor may recommend them if they think the benefits outweigh any risks.

How steroid injections work

Steroids are a man-made version of hormones normally produced by the adrenal glands, two small glands found above the kidneys.

When injected into a joint or muscle, steroids reduce redness and swelling (inflammation) in the nearby area. This can help relieve pain and stiffness.

When injected into the blood, they can reduce inflammation throughout the body, as well as reduce the activity of the immune system, the body's natural defence against illness and infection.

This can help treat autoimmune conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), which are caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the body.