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7-minute read

Key facts

  • Prednisolone is a medicine that belongs to a group of medicines called corticosteroids.
  • Prednisolone helps reduce inflammation in your body, treating many conditions, but not curing them.
  • Prednisolone is commonly used to treat some types of arthritis, asthma, skin problems and autoimmune diseases.
  • If you take prednisolone for a long time, especially at a high dose, you may experience significant side effects.
  • If you want or need to stop taking prednisolone, ask your doctor how to reduce the dose gradually to avoid serious side effects.

Looking for a medicine?

Visit healthdirect’s list of medicines that contain prednisolone to find out more about a specific medicine.

What is prednisolone?

Prednisolone is a medicine that belongs to a group of medicines called corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are synthetic (manufactured) versions of a natural body chemical called cortisol. This medicine helps reduce inflammation in your body or suppress your immune system.

Prednisone is a different medicine that is related to prednisolone and works in the same way to treat inflammatory diseases. Your doctor will prescribe the medicine and dose that is most suitable for your condition.

What is prednisolone used for?

Prednisolone helps reduce inflammation in your body.

Symptoms of inflammation may include:

  • swelling
  • redness
  • pain or tenderness
  • itching

Inflammation can affect any part of your body.

Prednisolone is used to treat many different conditions, including:

How does prednisolone work?

Prednisolone enters the cells that cause inflammation and blocks the body's inflammatory reaction. It reduces the symptoms of some conditions, but is doesn't cure them.

What forms of prednisolone are available?

Prednisolone is the name of the active ingredient. It is available in many different brands, which have different:

  • names
  • appearances (size, shape or colour)
  • forms (tablets, liquid, eye drops and suppositories)
  • strengths

No matter which brand you are prescribed, prednisolone works in the same way to treat your condition.

In Australia, you need a doctor's prescription to buy prednisolone.

What are the possible side effects of prednisolone?

Prednisolone helps most people who take it, but some people experience side effects.

Generally, the risk of side effects is low if you take prednisolone for a short time. Your risk increases if you take high doses of prednisolone for a long time.

Common side effects of prednisolone, especially with high doses for long periods, include:

Some psychological side effects include:

In children, prolonged use of prednisolone can cause slowed growth.

Prolonged use of prednisolone in children and adults can increase your chance of developing some infections. It can also cause thyroid problems.

Some side effects can only be noticed by your doctor. If you take prednisolone for long periods of time, you should have regular check-ups.

See your doctor immediately or go to the emergency department of your nearest hospital if you experience any of these serious side effects:

If you experience a serious or life-threatening side effect, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

This is not a full list of side effects. For more information about the risks of side effects, read the Consumer Medicines Information (CMI) for the brand of prednisolone you are taking or speak to your doctor or pharmacist. Although there are many possible side effects, you may not experience any of them.

What should I be careful of when taking prednisolone?

It is important to take prednisolone as prescribed. Talk with your doctor if you would like to lower your dose or stop taking prednisolone. Stopping it suddenly might cause serious side effects and can be dangerous.

Make sure to tell your doctor, surgeon or dentist that you are taking prednisolone, as surgery or illness may affect the dose you need to take.

When should I speak to my doctor?

Speak to your doctor if you:

  • experience side effects that trouble you
  • have signs of an allergic reaction
  • have a health condition or are taking medication that may affect how your body reacts to prednisolone
  • become pregnant or start breastfeeding

See the Consumer Medicines Information (CMI) for full details about when to speak with your doctor before or after you have started taking prednisolone.

Your doctor or pharmacist can provide more information to improve some possible side effects. For example, ask them if taking prednisolone with food can reduce indigestion or heartburn, or if taking corticosteroids in the morning can help prevent sleep disturbances.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

Are there alternatives to prednisolone?

Because prednisolone is used for many medical conditions, its alternatives depend on the condition you're taking it for. Discuss options with your doctor.

Resources and support

Asking about your treatment or medication is important to help you understand your options. Read our guide to important questions to ask your pharmacist or doctor before taking a medicine.

You can also visit healthdirect's list of medicines that contain prednisolone to read the CMI for the brand of prednisolone prescribed.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2023

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