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What is methylprednisolone (Medrol)?

Methylprednisolone belongs to the corticosteroid group of medicines. Corticosteroids are synthetic steroids that are the same as cortisol. They are used to provide relief from inflammation in different parts of the body.

The drug was first approved by the FDA in 1957.¹ It is also available as Medrol, a brand-name version.

Generic methylprednisolone comes in the following forms:

  • Tablet (2mg, 4mg, 8mg, 16mg, and 32mg)

  • Injectable suspension (2mg, 5mg, 25mg, 20mg/mL, 40mg/mL, and 80mg/mL)

  • Powder for injection (40mg, 125mg, 500mg, 1,000mg, and 2,000mg)

This medicine is only available with a doctor’s prescription.

What is methylprednisolone used to treat?

Methylprednisolone is used to treat inflammatory conditions such as:

  • Arthritis

  • Lupus

  • Ulcerative colitis

  • Gland disorders

  • Allergic disorders

  • Psoriasis

 It is also used to treat:

  • Certain cancers

  • Eye conditions

  • Immune system disorders

  • Skin, lung, kidney, or intestinal diseases

How do you take methylprednisolone?

Take methylprednisolone as instructed by your doctor. Do not adjust the dosage on your own.

Dosage for this medicine depends on the type and severity of your medical condition.

Typical dosage recommendations² for methylprednisolone oral tablets are as follows:

  • Adults: 2–60mg daily, which can be split into one or two doses.

  • Children: 1–2mg per kilogram of weight over 24 hours, which can be given in one or two doses.

Keep in mind that these are average dosage recommendations. This is just a guide and you should always follow your doctor’s prescription.

Seeing results

You may notice the effects of this drug quickly. The peak effect can be seen in one hour after an intravenous dose, and after two hours when taken orally.

Potential side effects of methylprednisolone

Methylprednisolone has a long list of side effects. These can be mild and go away on their own. The drug may also cause more serious side effects that require medical attention.

Common side effects that usually ease without medical intervention include:

Call your doctor if these side effects continue or worsen.

Serious side effects include:

  • Blurred vision

  • Severe depression

  • Unusual pain in your arm, leg, or back

  • Bloody or tarry stools

  • Seizures or convulsions

  • Shortness of breath

Call your doctor immediately if you experience these side effects. You may need urgent medical assistance.

Long-term use of methylprednisolone

Using methylprednisolone for a long time may increase your risk of developing the following conditions:

  • Osteoporosis

  • High cholesterol

  • Hypertension

  • Growth retardation (if taken in childhood)

  • High blood sugars or diabetes

  • Mood changes

  • Myopathy (muscle weakness)

  • Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP)

  • Glaucoma

  • Cataracts

  • Adrenal gland problems (Cushing’s syndrome)

  • Gastric ulcers

  • Weight gain

  • Increased risk of infections (viral, bacterial, and fungal)

Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about the risks and benefits of long-term methylprednisolone use.

Missed doses

Take a missed dose as soon as possible, but don’t take two at once. If it’s nearly time for your next dose, skip the dose you missed and resume your regular dosage schedule.

Overdoses

If you or someone you know has taken an overdose of methylprednisolone, seek emergency medical help right away.

In most cases, an overdose of methylprednisolone is not expected to cause life-threatening symptoms. However, you may experience:

  • High blood pressure

  • Salt and water retention, which may cause swollen arms, legs, or feet

  • Low potassium levels in your blood, which may cause weakness, tiredness, and muscle cramps

What to discuss with your doctor before taking methylprednisolone

Before you start taking methylprednisolone, discuss these points with your doctor:

  • Your allergies, including allergies to foods and other medications. Tell your doctor if you are allergic to methylprednisolone or any of its ingredients, and don’t take the drug again if you experienced an allergic reaction to it in the past.

  • Other medications you are currently taking or plan to take, as they may interact with methylprednisolone. Some medicines can worsen methylprednisolone side effects, while others can change how methylprednisolone works.

  • Herbal medicines or nutritional supplements you currently take or plan to take.

  • Current and previous health conditions, including liver, intestinal, kidney, or heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, tuberculosis, ulcers, or seizures.

  • Your family medical history.

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or if you are currently breastfeeding.

Stopping methylprednisolone

Do not suddenly stop using methylprednisolone.

If you are using methylprednisolone for a few weeks and you suddenly stop, your adrenal glands may stop working. Adrenal glands make your body’s natural hormones.

Suddenly stopping the use of methylprednisolone can also cause withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea

  • Joint or muscle pains

  • Confusion

  • Weight loss

  • Weakness

  • Dizziness

Consult your doctor before stopping your treatment. They may prescribe you a lower dosage and gradually decrease it. Gradually tapering off the medication like this may help prevent withdrawal effects.

Methylprednisolone and pregnancy

Methylprednisolone is an FDA pregnancy category C³ medication. This means animal studies have suggested the drug can cause harm to an unborn fetus, but there are insufficient human studies. The drug may be used when the advantages outweigh the potential dangers.

Methylprednisolone is known to pass into breast milk, but it is unlikely to cause harm to a nursing infant. Despite this, using this medication when breastfeeding is not recommended.

Interactions with other drugs

Some medicines interact with methylprednisolone, including:

  • Aldesleukin (Proleukin)

  • Mifepristone (Mifeprex)

  • Drugs that cause bleeding, like clopidogrel (Plavix)

  • Blood thinners, like warfarin (Coumadin or Jantoven)

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, and others), celecoxib (Celebrex), and aspirin

Continue taking a low dose of aspirin for heart problems or stroke prevention if you have been prescribed this by your doctor.

Unless your doctor advises you to, do not have any live attenuated vaccinations⁴ when taking this medication. Since methylprednisolone lowers your immune system, the vaccine might not work properly. In rare cases, this may give you the infection the vaccine should protect you from.

Examples of these live vaccines include:

  • Measles

  • Mumps

  • Influenza

  • Poliovirus (oral form)

  • Rotavirus

  • Rubella

Allergy information

This medication is not recommended for patients who are allergic to methylprednisolone (Medrol), prednisone (Rayos or Prednisone Intensol), or their ingredients. Read the product label or ask your pharmacist for a complete list of ingredients.

Though rare, methylprednisolone can cause allergic reactions with symptoms like hives, rashes, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the lips, face, or throat.

Speak to a medical professional if you experience an allergic reaction to this medicine. Allergic reactions require immediate medical attention. Your doctor may prescribe you a different medicine to treat your condition.

Tips and advice for taking methylprednisolone

Follow this advice to help you take methylprednisolone safely and effectively:

  • Avoid consuming alcohol when taking this medication. Drinking alcohol can upset your stomach and cause pain and other complications.

  • Take this medication with food or milk to avoid stomach irritation.

  • If you are taking this medication for a prolonged period, your doctor may prescribe a tablet to reduce acid production in your stomach. This can help reduce the risk of gastric ulcers overall.

  • It is best to take methylprednisolone in the morning, as it can make it difficult to fall asleep.

  • This medication can lower your immune system, so try your best to avoid people with conditions such as tuberculosis, chickenpox, or measles. A weakened immune system means you are more susceptible to various diseases.

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Disclaimer

Here at HealthMatch, we’ve done our best to ensure that the information provided in this article is helpful, up to date, and, most importantly, accurate.

However, we can’t replace the one-to-one advice of a qualified medical practitioner or outline all of the possible risks associated with this particular drug and your circumstances.

It is therefore important for you to note that the information contained in this article does not constitute professional medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or recommendation of treatment and is not intended to, nor should be used to, replace professional medical advice. This article may not always be up to date and is not exhaustive of all of the risks and considerations relevant to this particular drug. In no circumstances should this article be relied upon without independent consideration and confirmation by a qualified medical practitioner.

Your doctor will be able to explain all possible uses, dosages, precautions, interactions with other drugs, and other potential adverse effects, and you should always talk to them about any kind of medication you are taking, thinking about taking or wanting to stop taking.

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