Does Prednisone Increase Blood Pressure?

Prednisone is one of the preferred corticosteroids for treating some diseases. Its use, however, is mediated by different side effects. Today we focus on one in particular: the elevation of blood pressure.
Does Prednisone Increase Blood Pressure?

Last update: 13 July, 2021

Prednisone is a glucocorticoid derived from cortisone. Its intake is approved by the FDA to treat inflammatory, immunosuppressive, rheumatic, dermatological, neoplastic, gastrointestinal, respiratory, and other diseases.

Among its side effects, an increase in blood pressure has been reported, an aspect that shouldn’t go unnoticed by patients.

In some countries, it’s available over-the-counter, and used by many people to treat asthma, allergic reactions, or arthritis without the supervision of a doctor. As with any type of self-medication, this is contraindicated. Here we explain why prednisone increases blood pressure and how it should be monitored.

Prednisone and blood pressure

Prednisone and blood pressure are related
The development of hypertension in patients taking prednisone is relatively common, especially if there are several associated risk factors.

Prednisone is a drug that’s included in the group of corticosteroids. There’s a consensus supported by the evidence that these can cause hypertension and heart failure among their side effects. In addition to this, its intake has also been associated with sleep apnea, lipid disorders, diabetes, osteoporosis, and bleeding disorders.

There are many ways that medicine can cause high blood pressure. Some of these are as follows:

  • Increased appetite and weight
  • Liquid retention
  • Swelling

Fluid retention is the main side effect associated with prednisone intake. When the body retains water, the amount of fluid that your body circulates through the blood vessels increases. As Harvard Health Publishing reminds us, this, in turn, creates an overload on the heart that can lead to other cardiovascular conditions.

The development of adverse effects, such as hypertension, is determined by the dose and time of exposure to the drug. Therefore, it doesn’t mean that every patient who keeps taking the treatment will develop hypertension, only that they have a greater probability in contrast to its absence.

A study published in 2020 in the journal CMAJ indicates that its intake can generate greater complications in the presence of chronic inflammatory diseases. Those who suffer from lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis and many others have up to a 35% probability of developing high blood pressure if the medication is permanent or prolonged.

Symptoms of prednisone high blood pressure

Keep in mind that high blood pressure often doesn’t generate any type of symptoms. Determining when you’re experiencing hypertension isn’t so easy, at least if you only take into account the effects generated naturally. Among the main symptoms we find the following:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Blurry vision

Nosebleeds, vomiting, fainting, or panic / nervous attacks are rarely seen, although they should be watched for if you continue to take prednisone.

If this condition isn’t treated in time, it can produce several complications in the body, such as heart attacks, kidney disease, and cardiovascular attack, as pointed out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although they’re less frequent, an uncontrolled, unsupervised intake and high doses of this drug can encourage the development of hypertensive emergencies. These occur when pressure rises to life-threatening levels. Avoiding self-medication and keeping track of its intake reduces its chances of development to a minimum.

Correct use of the medicine

Prednisone and high blood pressure can become a problem
Following a healthy lifestyle – within the limitations of the underlying disease – is vital to control adverse effects.

If you’re taking prednisone you must maintain a series of habits that help control hypertension. For example, reduce the sodium intake in your food. Sodium is associated with an increased likelihood of fluid retention. This doesn’t mean that you’ll eliminate it completely from your diet, but you will decrease it. You can also consider the following:

  • Doing physical activity
  • Keeping a healthy weight
  • Avoiding excess tobacco and alcohol
  • Reducing stress levels
  • Avoiding processed foods and opting instead for natural ones

You shouldn’t exceed the dose suggested by the specialist. In case you forget to take the medicine, take it as soon as you can. If your intake is close to the next one, don’t take it in order to avoid an excess in your body.

In addition to this, it doesn’t hurt to keep a monthly, bi-monthly or semi-annual control of your blood pressure levels. After all, it’s a habit that every adult should practice as a preventive method. If you notice it seems quite high, then consult a specialist to look for possible causes.

Sometimes another drug may be prescribed to counteract hypertension caused by taking prednisone. It’s unusual for its use to be completely discontinued.

  • Martel, M. J., Rey, É., Beauchesne, M. F., Perreault, S., Lefebvre, G., Forget, A., & Blais, L. Use of inhaled corticosteroids during pregnancy and risk of pregnancy induced hypertension: nested case-control study. Bmj. 2005; 330(7485): 230.
  • Mebrahtu, T. F., Morgan, A. W., West, R. M., Stewart, P. M., & Pujades-Rodriguez, M. Oral glucocorticoids and incidence of hypertension in people with chronic inflammatory diseases: a population-based cohort study. CMAJ. 2020; 192(12): E295-E301.
  • Peppa, M., Krania, M., & Raptis, S. A. Hypertension and other morbidities with Cushing’s syndrome associated with corticosteroids: a review. Integrated blood pressure control. 2011; 4, 7.
  • Shen, J. Z., & Young, M. J. Corticosteroids, heart failure, and hypertension: a role for immune cells?. Endocrinology. 2012; 153(12): 5692-5700.

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