Methylprednisolone and prednisone are both corticosteroids and have similar actions. However, methylprednisolone and prednisone differ in their available forms and side effects
Both medications reduce inflammation, and people use them to relieve the symptoms of many health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, and eczema.
In this article, we look at the differences between methylprednisolone and prednisone.
Corticosteroids reduce inflammation by suppressing the immune system. They are a standard treatment for autoimmune conditions, which often cause inflammation in the body.
Doctors may prescribe methylprednisolone and prednisone to treat the following conditions:
- endocrine or thyroid conditions
- some types of osteoarthritis
- ankylosing spondylitis
- systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
- eczema, or atopic dermatitis
- severe psoriasis
- allergic reactions, including asthma
- multiple sclerosis (MS)
Methylprednisolone and prednisone are both common medications that are similar in price. They can come in branded or generic forms. As with most drugs, the generic versions cost less but still comprise the same substances.
Methylprednisolone is stronger than prednisone:
- prednisone is four times as potent as cortisol, a steroid hormone that is present in the body
- methylprednisolone is five times as potent as cortisol
Prednisone is an oral medication that people take in the form of a tablet, liquid, or concentrated solution. People will take between one and four doses a day depending on the medical condition and the effectiveness of the treatment.
People can take methylprednisolone orally too, but it is also available as an injection.
In many cases, a doctor will inject methylprednisolone into either the muscle or vein. However, for certain conditions, such as RA, they may inject methylprednisolone directly into a joint to reduce inflammation.
Being injectable makes methylprednisolone easier than prednisone to provide in large doses. This can be useful when a person’s severe inflammation requires immediate lessening.
Both prednisone and methylprednisolone are very strong medications. Doctors will try to use the lowest possible effective dosage, so they may increase or decrease the dosage during treatment.
It is vital to always take these medications according to a doctor’s instructions. People who stop taking them too quickly may notice withdrawal effects, such as:
- joint or muscle pains
Doctors often recommend taking oral steroids on a tapering schedule, where a person gradually decreases their dose each day. This reduces the risk of withdrawal effects.
As methylprednisolone and prednisone are both very potent, they can cause a range of side effects, including:
- thin, fragile skin
- slow wound healing
- irregular menstruation
- mood swings
- vision problems
- menstrual difficulties
- muscle and joint pain
- eye irritation
- decreased sexual desire
- changes in personality
- appetite changes
- twitching or tightening muscles
- shaky hands
- irregular heartbeat
- stomach pain
The side effects of prednisone can also include losing touch with reality. For this reason, doctors may prescribe methylprednisolone to someone with a risk of mental health conditions instead of prednisone to reduce the risk of psychosis.
Due to these side effects, doctors may avoid prescribing these corticosteroids. They may only recommend them if nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are not effective or if a person has severe inflammation.
Corticosteroids can interact with many other medications, including some nutritional supplements and alternative medicines, such as herbal remedies.
- warfarin, a blood thinner
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and naproxen
- antivirals, such as ritonavir and atazanavir
Before using corticosteroids, a person should tell their doctor about any other medications they are taking.
Corticosteroids have a widespread effect on the body. As a result, they can cause complications, some of which are severe.
Taking corticosteroids for more than a month, which doctors consider long-term use, increases the likelihood of adverse effects occurring.
It is important to note that these drugs
Complications are more likely to affect people who have or have had certain medical conditions, such as:
- tuberculosis (TB)
- high blood pressure
- threadworm infection
- heart disease
- mental health problems, such as depression
- bone weakness
- Cushing’s syndrome
- kidney, liver, intestinal, or thyroid disease
People may also experience complications if they have recently had surgery.
Methylprednisolone and prednisone are corticosteroids that can significantly impact the body. They are effective medications for reducing inflammation.
Both medications can produce a range of side effects and complications. Methylprednisolone is more potent than prednisone.
Doctors can give methylprednisolone orally or through an injection, while prednisone is only available as an oral treatment. Methylprednisolone may, therefore, be more appropriate for people with digestive issues that stop them from taking or fully absorbing oral drugs.
A doctor will decide which medication is best in each situation. When discussing corticosteroids, people should ensure their doctor knows all their previous health conditions and current medications.