Steroid injections

Steroid injections (also called corticosteroid injections) are anti-inflammatory medicines used to treat a range of conditions.

They are only given by healthcare professionals.

These steroids are different from anabolic steroids.

Anabolic steroids are sometimes prescribed by healthcare professionals. They can also be misused by people to increase muscle mass and improve athletic performance.

Read the patient information leaflet you were given when you had your injection. It will have specific advice about your medicine.

Get emergency help

You will need urgent help if you develop serious side effects or have a headache and other symptoms.

Immediate action required: Go to an emergency department (ED) or phone your GP immediately if you get a headache and:

  • feel drowsy
  • feel confused
  • are getting sick (vomiting)

Epidural injections can give you a headache that's only relieved by lying down. Tell your GP if it happens.

Serious side effects

Immediate action required: Phone a GP immediately if you have:

  • a skin rash
  • swelling of the face
  • difficulty breathing or are wheezing
  • severe stomach pain which may include back pain, bleeding from the bum, black or bloody poo or are vomiting blood
  • signs of an infection, such as a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or higher and are feeling unwell
  • a pain in the chest or are coughing blood
  • mental health issues, such as depression or thoughts of harming yourself
  • sudden sharp chest pain or breathlessness
  • painful swollen, red and tender veins in your leg

Types of steroid injections

Examples of steroid injections include:

  • hydrocortisone
  • triamcinolone
  • methylprednisolone
  • dexamethasone

Uses of steroid injections

Steroid injections are used treat allergic and inflammatory diseases of the:

They are also used to treat:

  • joint pain
  • autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis
  • medical emergencies, such as shock and severe allergic reactions
  • severe infections

Steroid injections can be injected directly into the area where there is a problem, such as between the joints or into a tendon.

They can also be injected into the muscle or the blood to treat inflammation conditions affecting the whole body.

Check if you can get a steroid injection

Most people can have steroid injections.

Do not get a steroid injection if you:

  • have had an allergic reaction to a steroid injection in the past
  • are suffering from an infection, unless the infection is being treated
  • have had a recent infection
  • have just had a vaccine or will be getting a vaccine soon

Tell your GP if you:

  • have a medical condition - such as epilepsy, high blood pressure or diabetes
  • have a condition that affects your liver, heart, kidneys or gut
  • are taking any other medicines
  • have severe depression, bipolar disorder or a family history of these illnesses
  • are pregnant, think you might be pregnant or are trying to get pregnant
  • are breastfeeding

Read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine. It has a full list of all conditions and medicines to check with your GP.

Tell your GP about risks of infections

You are more likely to get infections when you're taking any steroid medicine.

Tell your GP if you're exposed to infectious illnesses like chickenpox or shingles.

Steroids makes you more likely to catch infections such as:

Tuberculosis (TB) may also recur.

Keep away from people with an infectious disease, especially chickenpox or shingles. If you have never had these illnesses, they could make you very ill.

How to get a steroid injection

You can get injected in several different ways, including in:

  • a joint - an intra-articular injection
  • a muscle - an intramuscular injection
  • the blood - an intravenous injection

Sometimes your health professional might give an epidural injection, in the spine. This is not an approved use. It is known as 'off-label use'.

The injections usually take a few days to start working, but some work in a few hours. The effect usually wears off after a few months.

If you're having an injection to relieve pain, it may also contain local anaesthetic. This provides immediate pain relief that lasts a few hours.

You should be able to go home soon after the injection. You may need to rest the treated body part for a few days.

Stopping treatment

You will need to come off steroid injections slowly if you have:

  • had steroid injections for a long time
  • high doses of steroids
  • existing problems with your adrenal glands

Stopping treatment suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • itchy skin
  • fever
  • muscle and joint pains
  • runny nose
  • sticky eyes
  • sweating
  • weight loss

Do not stop or reduce your dose of steroids suddenly. Your GP will decide when to gradually reduce your dose and stop your treatment.

Side effects of steroid injections

Side effects of steroid injections depend on where you get the injection.

Side effects of injections into joints, muscles or the spine can include:

  • pain and discomfort for a few days
  • temporary bruising
  • flushing of the face for a few hours
  • an infection causing redness, swelling and pain
  • dimples or pale skin where you were injected - this may be permanent
  • higher blood sugar
  • higher blood pressure

You may need emergency help if you get serious side effects or get a headache and have other symptoms, particularly if you have had an epidural injection.

Information:

See the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine for a full list of side effects.

You can report any suspected side effects to the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).

Finding your patient information leaflet online

Your patient information leaflet (PIL) is the leaflet that comes in the package of your medicine.

Information:

To find your PIL online, visit the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) website

  1. In the ‘Find a medicine’ search box, enter the brand name of your medicine. A list of matching medicines appears.
  2. To the right of your medicine, select ‘PIL’. A PDF of the PIL opens in a new window.

You can also:

  1. Select the brand name of your medicine.
  2. Scroll down to the Documents section.
  3. From the Package Leaflet line, select PDF version. A PDF of the PIL opens in a new window.

If your PIL is not on the HPRA website, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) website opens in a new window when you select ‘PIL’.

You can find your PIL on the EMA website.

Finding your PIL on the EMA website

If your PIL is not on the HPRA website, you will be sent to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) website.

To find your PIL on the EMA website:

  1. In the Medicines search box, enter the brand name of your medicine and the word ‘epar’. For example: ‘Zoely epar’. A list of matching medicines appears.
  2. Select the ‘Human medicine European public assessment report (EPAR)’ for your medicine
  3. From the table of contents, select Product information.
  4. Select the EPAR – Product Information link for your medicine. A PDF opens in a new window. The PIL information is in Annex III of the PDF under ‘labelling and package leaflet’

This content was fact checked by a pharmacist, a GP, the National Medication Safety Programme (Safermeds) and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 24 September 2021
Next review due: 24 September 2024

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