Steroid injections (also called corticosteroid injections) are anti-inflammatory medicines used to treat a range of conditions.
They are only given by healthcare professionals.
These steroids are different from anabolic steroids.
Anabolic steroids are sometimes prescribed by healthcare professionals. They can also be misused by people to increase muscle mass and improve athletic performance.
Read the patient information leaflet you were given when you had your injection. It will have specific advice about your medicine.
Get emergency help
You will need urgent help if you develop serious side effects or have a headache and other symptoms.
Types of steroid injections
Examples of steroid injections include:
Uses of steroid injections
Steroid injections are used treat allergic and inflammatory diseases of the:
- bowel and gut, such as Crohn’s disease
- skin, such as psoriasis
- lungs, such as severe asthma
- joints, such as arthritis
They are also used to treat:
- joint pain
- autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis
- medical emergencies, such as shock and severe allergic reactions
- severe infections
Steroid injections can be injected directly into the area where there is a problem, such as between the joints or into a tendon.
They can also be injected into the muscle or the blood to treat inflammation conditions affecting the whole body.
Check if you can get a steroid injection
Most people can have steroid injections.
Tell your GP if you:
- have a medical condition – such as epilepsy, high blood pressure or diabetes
- have a condition that affects your liver, heart, kidneys or gut
- are taking any other medicines
- have severe depression, bipolar disorder or a family history of these illnesses
- are pregnant, think you might be pregnant or are trying to get pregnant
- are breastfeeding
Read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine. It has a full list of all conditions and medicines to check with your GP.
Tell your GP about risks of infections
You are more likely to get infections when you’re taking any steroid medicine.
Tell your GP if you’re exposed to infectious illnesses like chickenpox or shingles.
Steroids makes you more likely to catch infections such as:
- the common cold
- chest infection
Tuberculosis (TB) may also recur.
Keep away from people with an infectious disease, especially chickenpox or shingles. If you have never had these illnesses, they could make you very ill.
How to get a steroid injection
You can get injected in several different ways, including in:
- a joint – an intra-articular injection
- a muscle – an intramuscular injection
- the blood – an intravenous injection
Sometimes your health professional might give an epidural injection, in the spine. This is not an approved use. It is known as ‘off-label use’.
The injections usually take a few days to start working, but 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.
You will need to come off steroid injections slowly if you have:
- had steroid injections for a long time
- high doses of steroids
- existing problems with your adrenal glands
Stopping treatment suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms such as:
- itchy skin
- muscle and joint pains
- runny nose
- sticky eyes
- weight loss
Do not stop or reduce your dose of steroids suddenly. Your GP will decide when to gradually reduce your dose and stop your treatment.
Side effects of steroid injections
Side effects of steroid injections depend on where you get the injection.
Side effects of injections into joints, muscles or the spine can include:
- pain and discomfort for a few days
- temporary bruising
- flushing of the face for a few hours
- an infection causing redness, swelling and pain
- dimples or pale skin where you were injected – this may be permanent
- higher blood sugar
- higher blood pressure
You may need emergency help if you get serious side effects or get a headache and have other symptoms, particularly if you have had an epidural injection.