Steroids are used to reduce swelling, inflammation, and mucus in the airways. This can make it easier to breathe for patients with conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma. The steroids used for lung problems are not the same as the illegal anabolic steroids used to build muscles.
Steroid medications are most often inhaled using an inhaler. This delivers the drug directly to the lungs which allows lower doses of the drug to be effective. Steroids can also be taken orally in pill form, or in rare cases, intravenously. When steroids are taken orally, the dose must be higher than the dose in inhaled steroids.
Some patients experience side effects from inhaled steroids, including bruising, oral infections, and hoarseness. Side effects from oral steroids can be more serious due to the larger dose. These can include bruising, cataracts, weight gain, high blood sugar levels, osteoporosis (weakening of the bones), and swelling in the ankles or feet.