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corticosteroid drug(kôr'təkōstâr`oid), any one of several synthetic or naturally occurring substances with the general chemical structure of steroidssteroids,
class of lipids having a particular molecular ring structure called the cyclopentanoperhydro-phenanthrene ring system. Steroids differ from one another in the structure of various side chains and additional rings. Steroids are common in both plants and animals.
..... Click the link for more information. . They are used therapeutically to mimic or augment the effects of the naturally occurring corticosteroids, which are produced in the cortex of the adrenal glandadrenal gland
or suprarenal gland
, endocrine gland (see endocrine system) about 2 in. (5.1 cm) long situated atop each kidney. The outer yellowish layer (cortex) of the adrenal gland secretes about 30 steroid hormones, the most important of which are aldosterone and
..... Click the link for more information. . Corticosteroids are very powerful drugs that affect the entire body; even corticosteroids used on large areas of skin for long periods are absorbed in sufficient quantity to cause systemic effects.
Corticosteroids, as well as adrenocorticotropic hormoneadrenocorticotropic hormone
, polypeptide hormone secreted by the anterior pituitary gland. Its chief function is to stimulate the cortex of the adrenal gland to secrete adrenocortical steroids, chief among them cortisone.
..... Click the link for more information. (ACTH), the pituitary gland substance that stimulates the adrenal cortex, have modifying effects on many diseases. Some corticosteroid derivatives mimic the action of the naturally occurring steroid hormone aldosteronealdosterone
, steroid secreted by the cortex of the adrenal gland. It is the most potent hormone regulating the body's electrolyte balance. Aldosterone acts directly on the kidney to decrease the rate of sodium-ion excretion (with accompanying retention of water), and to
..... Click the link for more information. , causing increased sodium retention and potassium excretion. Others have the same effects as the naturally occurring steroids cortisonecortisone
, steroid hormone whose main physiological effect is on carbohydrate metabolism. It is synthesized from cholesterol in the outer layer, or cortex, of the adrenal gland under the stimulation of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).
..... Click the link for more information. and cortisolcortisol
steroid hormone that in humans is the major circulating hormone of the cortex, or outer layer, of the adrenal gland. Like cortisone, cortisol is classed as a glucocorticoid; it stimulates liver glycogen formation while it decreases the rate
..... Click the link for more information. , which are classed as glucocorticoids; these affect carbohydrate and fat metabolism, reduce tissue inflammation, and suppress the body's immune defense mechanisms. Cortisone and hydrocortisonehydrocortisone
, another name for the steroid hormone cortisol, more especially used to refer to preparations of this hormone used medicinally. Hydrocortisone, introduced in 1952, is more potent than cortisone with respect to medicinal metabolic and anti-inflammatory effects.
..... Click the link for more information. are used to treat Addison's diseaseAddison's disease
[for Thomas Addison], progressive disease brought about by atrophy of the outer layer, or cortex, of the adrenal gland; it is also called chronic adrenocortical insufficiency.
..... Click the link for more information. , a disorder caused by underproduction of the adrenal cortex hormones. These and synthetic steroids are used extensively to treat arthritis and other rheumatoid diseases, including rheumatic heart disease. They are also used in some cases of autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus, in severe allergic conditions such as asthma, in allergic and inflammatory eye disorders, and in some respiratory diseases. The anti-inflammatory, itch-suppressing, and vasoconstrictive properties of steroids make them useful when applied to the skin to relieve diseases such as eczema and psoriasis and insect bites.
Because corticosteroids lower the resistance to infection, patients on steroid therapy cannot be vaccinated for smallpox or immunized. The administration of corticosteroids also causes underproduction of the natural hormones by the adrenal cortex, and so ACTH or corticosteroid therapy must always be withdrawn gradually. In addition, when used in large doses for long periods of time, the drugs can cause atrophy of the adrenal cortex. Side effects of steroid therapy include glaucoma, excess hair growth, and imbalance of many substances, including calcium, nitrogen, potassium, and sodium. Many of the synthetic corticosteroids, such as prednisone, prednisolone, triamcinolone, and betamethasone, are more potent than the naturally occurring compounds.