Because of these side effects, doctors frequently choose safer medications, such as the 5-ASA drugs and antibiotics, as initial therapy. But there are a number of ways to reduce the risk of developing side effects. These include rapid but careful tapering off of steroids; alternate-day dosing; rectally applied corticosteroids; and rapidly metabolized corticosteroids such as budesonide (described above). To help prevent osteoporosis, many doctors routinely prescribe calcium supplements as well as multivitamins that contain vitamin D. Another option is the use of bisphosphonates, such as risedronate (Actonel®) and alendronate (Fosamax®). These compounds, which have been shown to help avert bone loss, are effective in treating and preventing steroid-induced osteoporosis.
How often cortisone injections are given varies based on the reason for the injection. This is determined on a case-by-case basis by the health care practitioner. If a single cortisone injection is curative, then further injections are unnecessary. Sometimes, a series of injections might be necessary; for example, cortisone injections for a trigger finger may be given every three weeks, to a maximum of three times in one affected finger. In other instances, such as knee osteoarthritis, a second cortisone injection may be given approximately three months after the first injection, but the injections are not generally continued on a regular basis.
Dr. Shiel: Fortunately, the rounding of the face, which occurs because of cortisone medications, is often times reversible. This usually occurs because of a re-distribution of fatty tissue and enlargement of fat in and around the face so that what is commonly referred to as a "moon face" can occur with prolonged cortisone use. This often times is a temporary phenomenon. There are a limited number of patients who unfortunately, this is not reverse in, but most often does reverse over time after the medicines are discontinued.