Corticoid is fattening? How to maintain weight in treatment?

Many people have used corticosteroid medications, and even more people have heard that they put on weight. Although the treatment can cause fluid retention, it does not always happen, as it depends a lot on the time of use and dosage ingested.

Learn more about corticosteroids and find out if they get fat:


What are corticosteroid drugs and what are they for?

Corticosteroid drugs, or also known as corticosteroids, cortisone or cortisol, are agents with anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive action. That is, they are prescribed for different conditions that require inflammation control or immune action.

The use is not uncommon, as they can be part of the treatment of conditions, from oncological conditions, rhinitis, herpes, allergies or rheumatological diseases.

In fact, in some cases, the indiscriminate use of the corticosteroid medication is a cause for concern, because, although extremely effective for the conditions indicated, they have adverse effects and, over long periods of use, can bring health risks.

Therefore, in general, whenever there is another option to corticosteroids, it is preferred.

In general, the punctual use and accompanied by health professionals is safe and tends to manifest few or no side effects. The highest incidence occurs in patients who need to use it for a long time.

In these, it is common to experience tiredness , agitation, changes in sleep, headaches, reduced immunity. But, in addition to these adverse symptoms, there is common fear of using corticosteroids in relation to weight gain.

Corticosteroids are derived from cortisol, a hormone naturally produced by the body, in the adrenal glands, and essential for the functioning of the body. Many people know cortisol as a stress hormone , but that does not mean that it is necessarily bad, because at adequate levels, stress is important.

But, in addition, cortisol is related to a series of actions in the body, such as degradation of proteins , fats and sugars, regulates the availability of energy and is related to anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory actions.

Therefore, if used as directed by a doctor, the benefits outweigh the risks.

What are the side effects?

There are different active ingredients that make up the class of corticosteroids. In general, they have adverse effects according to the time of use and dosage. The most frequent ones reported by the package leaflet are:

Hydroelectrolytic changes

  • Sodium retention (favoring body swelling);
  • Loss of potassium (in high doses or time of use, hypokalemia is observed, which is the low potassium due to increased urine flow);
  • Hypokalemic alkalosis (kidney response to extreme or severe decrease in potassium)
  • Fluid retention;
  • Congestive heart failure in susceptible patients;
  • Hypertension.

Musculoskeletal changes

  • Muscle weakness;
  • Corticosteroid myopathy (progressive muscle weakness due to the use of corticosteroids);
  • Loss of muscle mass;
  • Worsening symptoms of myasthenia gravis (autoimmune disease that causes muscle weakness, difficulty swallowing and chewing, drooping eyelids, among others);
  • Osteoporosis;
  • Spinal compression fractures
  • Aseptic necrosis of the femoral head and humerus;
  • Pathological fracture of long bones;
  • Tendon rupture.

Gastrointestinal changes

  • Peptic ulcer with possible perforation and hemorrhage;
  • Pancreatitis;
  • Abdominal distension;
  • Ulcerative esophagitis.

Dermatological changes

  • Delayed / difficult healing
  • Cutaneous atrophy, thin and fragile skin;
  • Petechiae and bruises (purple spots);
  • Facial erythema (redness on the face);
  • Excessive sweating;
  • Suppression of the reaction to skin tests;
  • Reactions such as allergic dermatitis, urticaria, angioneurotic edema.

Read more: Edema: what it is, types and treatments

Neurological changes

  • Convulsions;
  • Increased intracranial pressure with papilledema (brain pseudotumor) usually after treatment;
  • Vertigo;
  • Headache.

Endocrine changes

  • Menstrual irregularities;
  • Development of cushingoid state;
  • Suppression of fetal or infant growth;
  • Secondary adrenal or pituitary insufficiency, especially in cases of stress (surgery, trauma or illness);
  • Reduced carbohydrate tolerance;
  • Manifestation of latent diabetes mellitus;
  • Increased need for insulin or oral hypoglycemic agents in diabetic patients.

Read more: What are the symptoms and causes of Hypoglycemia?

Ophthalmic changes

  • Catarata subcapsular posterior;
  • Increased intraocular pressure;
  • Glaucoma;
  • Exophthalmos (abnormal bulging in the eyeball);
  • Blurred vision.

Metabolic changes

Negative nitrogen balance due to protein catabolism (related to loss of lean mass ).

Psychiatric disorders

  • Euphoria;
  • Changes in mood;
  • Severe depression with evident psychotic manifestations;
  • Personality changes;
  • Hyperirritability;
  • Insomnia.


Hypersensitivity or anaphylactoid reactions and shock or hypotension reactions .

Read more: What is Corticoid for?

Why does corticosteroid make you fat?

Among the possible adverse effects reported in the package insert are fluid retention, changes in appetite and decreased lean mass . That is, it can trigger a change in weight.

The swelling, which in this case is known as hypercortisolism and results from the change in the elimination of sodium. It is also common for treatment to result in increased hunger, so that the person will eat more – this then helps in weight gain.

However, these adverse effects are seen in those who use it for some longer period of time. For most people, use is short (as in cases of pain, tooth extraction, inflammation and severe allergies).

In addition, it is worth remembering that the increase in body mass is related to a number of factors, such as genetics, diet, time of use of the medication and the practice of physical activities.

I put on weight. Should I drop the treatment?

No! First, it is important to know that corticosteroids will only bring about observable and significant changes in body mass if they are used for a long time – that is, long weeks.

In many cases, the drug is prescribed for a few days, and there is not enough time for changes in weight.

But in addition, even if the treatment is long, it is essential to maintain it correctly, following medical recommendations. If there is any adverse effect that interferes with well-being and quality of life, it is important to notify the doctor to assess the need to change the treatment.

However, if the only complaint is weight gain, it is likely that a series of precautions will be integrated into the treatment, helping with weight control.

How to avoid weight gain with the use of corticosteroids?

Weight gain during the use of corticosteroid drugs has some correlated aspects, so that not everyone who uses it will gain weight. In fact, one of the main points is the time of use and dosage.

People with occasional conditions, such as acute pain or temporary inflammatory control, tend to need treatment for short periods – sometimes, about 5 to 7 days.

In this type of use, it is unusual for significant changes in weight to occur. However, in any case, the ideal is always to combine the use of medication with a balanced diet and the practice of physical activities.

It is common for corticosteroids to increase hunger, causing caloric intake to be high as well. Therefore, investing in natural and healthy foods is important. But, to help control your appetite, engaging in relaxing activities and reducing stressful ones can control anxiety and, consequently, the urge to eat.

How to lose weight after treatment?

The same tips during treatment should be followed and continued after the use of corticosteroids, in order to regain weight before using the drug.

Good tips are the practice of aerobic activities, as they generate a high caloric expenditure. It is always worth observing the glass and respecting your own limits, especially after doing any type of medical treatment.

The choice of light, natural and the least industrialized and / or processed foods possible is important, as they help in good nutrition (giving essential nutrients to the functioning of the body) and also promoting satiety.

Following medical and nutritional recommendations is valid for life. At that time, professional help in setting up the menu and monitoring weight loss is essential for this to occur in a healthy way.

In addition, reducing the stress load, investing in relaxing activities and controlling anxiety are valuable tips for post-treatment.

The use of corticosteroid medications is safe and has excellent results as long as it is done under medical guidance. However, adverse effects can still occur.

One of them, which usually causes great discomfort and doubts, is about weight gain. In general, this occurs only with patients who have long treatments and at higher doses. But there are ways to control your weight without giving up treatment.

The Healthy Minute brings tips and information about medicines and health!