Steroids are a group of hormones of particular chemical structure, they are generated from Adrenal glands, ovaries and Testes. There are Different types of steroids are there in our body. Some steroids are life-saving, meaning without them we can not survive.
Some steroids suppress inflammation and used clinically as anti-inflammatory medicine. Steroids come from Testes and Ovaries; they are called sex-steroids.
In addition to controlling metabolism, they are important in sexual function. They also cause enhancement of mood, one of the treason they are abused.
How Steroids work?
When taken in doses higher than the amount your body normally produces, steroids reduce redness and swelling (inflammation). This can help with inflammatory conditions such as asthma and eczema.
They can help treat autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, which are caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the body.
Steroids also reduce the activity of the immune system, the body’s natural defence against illness and infection.
What are their uses?
Used for various medical conditions in which the inflammatory response has to be controlled. In asthma these are given by tablet, injection or through inhaler.
In certain other medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, SLE and other connective tissue disorders these are very helpful.
In cases like Adrenal gland inactivity Steroids are life-saving, also in cases of severe allergic reactions.
How do we classify commonly used Steroids?
- Glucocorticoids are classified on the basis of their potency.
- Hydrocortisone (hisone or histone) – least potent
- Prednisolone (most commonly used) – intermediate in potency.
- Dexamethasone (dexona) – most potent.
- Mineralocorticoid – we use Fludrocortisone.
Are there any side effects to these drugs?
- Used in excess they create a variety of problems.
- Most dramatic – Cushing’s syndrome in which patient manifests with florid signs of steroid excess as already mentioned
- However, if used judicially then they help in combating many ailments effectively.
- Also if a person is taking a steroid drug for a long time then it must be reduced slowly otherwise the patient may develop a crisis which could be life-threatening.
Is there any difference between these steroids and steroids used by sports persons for performance enhancement?
Yes, there are a lot of differences between them. They are called anabolic-androgenic steroids. These are basically male sex related hormones; anabolic means body building and androgenic means masculine characteristics. In sports their use is illegal.
They are used in the belief that they increase the muscle strength and hence performance. Although it may be true in the short term they are deleterious to health if used on a long term basis.
What are the problems of its long term use?
- In both men and women can cause liver and kidney cancer, jaundice, increased blood pressure, increased blood sugars, bad cholesterol, mood swings etc.
- The heart is at risk for damage in a various ways. In response to excess steroid in the body, the heart muscle may enlarge just like any other muscle in the body. This enlargement, or hypertrophy, can lead to decreased pumping ability (cardiomyopathy) as well as changes in the electrical conduction system in the heart causing rhythm changes (arrhythmias), palpitations, and potentially sudden cardiac death.
- In men testicles may shrink, sperm production and fertility decreases, baldness increases. They are at increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Women develop excessive facial hair, male pattern baldness, menstrual disturbances, and changes in genetalia.
- In children growth will be stunted.
Steroid Abuse Prevention
Prevention is the first step in avoiding steroid abuse. Whether it is associated with sports performance or the desire to improve the perception of oneself, the key to steroid abuse is to prevent the first use.
Education at home and in the schools highlighting the potential risks while at the same explaining the consequences of cheating are the first step in reducing the steroid abuse problem.