When Prednisone Complications Become Real

When Prednisone Complications Become Real

I knew it would happen at some point, of course. I’ve been on prednisone almost nonstop for about five years. Right now, I’m on 20 milligrams a day; it’s not a high dose, but not a low one, either. In the past few weeks, I’ve hovered between 10 and 20 milligrams, unable to sustain my weight or my comfort level unless I’m at 20 as I try desperately to go back down to nothing.

And then came the biggest prednisone blow. On Wednesday, I saw my optometrist for my annual appointment. She’s a young mother of 2½-year-old twins, an obviously very intelligent person with a soothing voice. I always enjoy our visits as she regales  me with stories of her kids and her home life. I thought Wednesday would be more of the same.

I had noticed lately that my vision wasn’t as sharp as it had been when I wear my long-distance glasses. I also have readers/computer glasses, because I do so much work on the computer, and they seemed to be working just fine. I assumed I merely needed an uptick in my distance correction, coinciding nicely with replacing the pair of glasses I have that are three years old.

But what the doctor found was something more complicated.

“You have cataracts forming in the back of your eyes,” she said, not from aging, but specifically from prednsione use. Right now, I’m still correcting to 20/20 with my glasses, but barely. Everything at 20/20 is slightly out of focus, blurry. I’m no longer getting the sharp correction I usually get.

That’s because the small cataracts are starting to affect my vision. My doctor explained further that it will get worse, dramatically, over a year or so ― maybe slightly more than that, up to two years ― and then it will get so bad that I will need to have the cataracts removed. Once they’re out and artificial lenses put in, I will never have to worry about cataracts again.

I was stunned. Yes, I know prednisone carries many risks; five years ago, not in menopause at age 44, I was diagnosed with osteoporosis. But it was so slight that I haven’t thought about it too much over the ensuing years, until a month ago when I went for my annual physical. My doctor told me I need to at least have a follow-up bone scan to see if it’s worse, and to make a plan if it is.

Still, that feels very far away. I likely won’t break a bone anytime soon. This vision thing feels more immediate. A quick loss of vision scares me, and I don’t like anything having to do with eyes. I never bothered trying to learn to use contacts because I can’t stand the thought of putting anything near my eyes.

My husband just had cataract surgery (he also happened to have a condition that made his cataracts worse) and I saw what he went through. Though the surgery itself seemed no big deal, he was uncomfortable for several days, and the amount of drops he had to put in his eyes every day for weeks and weeks grossed me out.

Now, I will need to do it. It’s not like I have a choice.

But this makes me even more desperate to get off the prednisone. And more saddened than ever that I know, at least right now, I’m not able.


Note: IBD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of IBD News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to IBD.

Margarida graduated with a BS in Health Sciences from the University of Lisbon and a MSc in Biotechnology from Instituto Superior Técnico (IST-UL). She worked as a molecular biologist research associate at a Cambridge UK-based biotech company that discovers and develops therapeutic, fully human monoclonal antibodies.
Margarida graduated with a BS in Health Sciences from the University of Lisbon and a MSc in Biotechnology from Instituto Superior Técnico (IST-UL). She worked as a molecular biologist research associate at a Cambridge UK-based biotech company that discovers and develops therapeutic, fully human monoclonal antibodies.
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  1. Lisa Marie says:

    I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with the complications that surround when you take prednisone. (Or any other steroid). I’ve been on prednisone for the past 14 years now and am unable to get off as well. I too developed steroid cataracts and at the age of 20, so I completely understand. Did the optometrist explain why it affects your vision more than typical cataracts that form from old age? It’s because of how thick it is and the location. Mine weren’t huge, but those types develop in the very middle of the eye. That’s why it affects the vision so much and so quickly. When are you scheduled to have them removed? I’m sure you’ll do great! You’re night that 20mg isn’t a high dose but it’s certainly not a low dose either. You GI doctor needs to find a way to get you off it, or at least a lower dose! There are more complications that can occurs with steroids that are pretty serious. You should definitely keep up with those bone scans! I know it doesn’t seem like a serious matter but I can be. I never knew about this effect but after being on higher doses of steroids for a prolonged period of time your joints can develop Avascular Necrosis. It a disease of the joints that stops the blood flow to the joint, the bone marrow dies and then collapses. This results in needing the joint to be replaced. My first was my right hip when I was 24. As of today, I am 32 and have had both hips and both shoulders replaced because of the disease I developed because of steroids. That’s a side effect no doctors ever told me about. I’m betting you never knew too? The main symptom you will notice is a deep pain in a major joint that’s not from any sort of injury or anything. If you do start hurting, get it checked out asap because the longer the disease sets in, the harder it will be to replace. This is more common than you’d think. I hope that one day you are able to get off the steroids and that your IBD calms down. Keep going strong!

    • margreet Luttik says:

      O, dear. I am 66 and for Some months ago i have My new eyes, as I call it, sorry for My english, I am a dutch gril with u.c. My cataract was also Because of prednison during 30 years. Please go as soon as possible to a good specialist.
      One that understand that you can’t wait a year of so. You Will have problems in the traffic, problems with Reading ect. Some specialists want to wait until the cataract is very bad. Others will inplant Your new lenses as soon as possible Because they do not believe in waiting. Look for the second. Do not wait! I am so happy with My new eyes!
      The world is very new and fresh now. Love from Holland!

  2. Andrea Richards says:

    I know your concerns. I was on high/low doses of prednisone in my 20s and 30s. First cataract surgery at 35 then second at 45. Broke my foot then tailbone in 30s. That’s when we stopped prednisone. Intestinal resection after blockage removed much of disease in my early 50s.
    Compared to many I feel okay most days

  3. Debbie says:

    I’m developing the same right now. No idea how long until they can be removed. But it’s making driving at night very difficult — light from oncoming cars is playing havoc with my ability to see. I figure with all that Crohn’s puts me through, the eye surgery and recovery is comparatively minor. I’ve seen much older folks go through very little disturbance with this surgery. YMMV, though. Be well!

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