What are steroids?

Steroids (short for corticosteroids) are man-made drugs that closely resemble cortisol, a hormone that your adrenal glands produce naturally. Corticosteroids are different from the male hormone-related steroid compounds that some athletes abuse.

Steroids work by decreasing inflammation and reducing the activity of the immune system. Steroids are used to treat a variety of inflammatory diseases and conditions.

Why are steroids injected?

Injecting steroids into one or two local areas of inflammation allows doctors to deliver a high dose of medication directly to the problem area. When doctors give steroids by mouth or intravenously, they cannot be sure an adequate amount of the steroid will eventually reach the problem area.

What conditions are treated with steroid injections?

Steroids are often injected directly into joints to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout or other inflammatory diseases. Steroids can also be injected into inflamed bursae (bursitis), or around inflamed tendons (tendinitis) near the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, hand or wrist.

What role do steroid injections play in an overall treatment program?

Steroid injections can be added to a treatment program that may already include analgesics(pain medications), anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and/or supportive devices such as canes and braces. Whether one or more of these treatment methods are used depends on the nature of the problem. For example, in an otherwise healthy individual, tendinitis may be adequately treated with only a local steroid injection. However, in a patient with rheumatoid arthritis, injections are generally a small part of a multi-faceted treatment approach.