Corticosteroids are a family of drugs that include cortisol (hydrocortisone)—an adrenal hormone found naturally in the body—as well as synthetic drugs. Though natural and synthetic corticosteroids are both potent anti-inflammatory compounds, the synthetics exert a stronger effect. Oral forms of corticosteroids are used to treat numerous autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, including asthma, bursitis, Crohn’s disease, skin disorders, tendinitis, ulcerative colitis, and others. They are also used to treat severe allergic reactions and to prevent rejection after organ transplant.
Corticosteroids are available for inhalation by mouth to treat asthma and other conditions of restricted breathing, as well as by nose to treat symptoms of nasal allergies. Topical forms are available to treat skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, insect bites, and hives. Some topical products contain combinations of corticosteroids and antibiotics, and are used to treat ear, eye, and skin infections.
For interactions involving oral, inhaled, or topical forms of corticosteroids, refer to the categories listed below.