Steroid Use

Purpose of steroid use

The purpose of steroid use is to increase and protect muscle strength. Research has shown that the glucocorticosteroids (prednisone/prednisolone and deflazacort) improve strength, increase the length of time a child with muscular dystrophy will be able to walk, improve lung function, and reduce problems like scoliosis. Steroid use may also improve heart function.

Side effects of steroid use

Steroids may have side effects that include weight gain, behavior problems, a loss of bone mineral density (leading to weaker bones), and delayed puberty over the long term. Boys on steroids will not be as tall as they otherwise would have been. It is important that healthcare providers talk about side effects with families. But because studies have shown so many good effects from steroid use, experts now recommend that all children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy try steroids, because the benefits usually outweigh the side effects.

Choosing a steroid plan

The most common plan for steroids (prednisone/prednisolone, deflazacort) has been to take steroids daily. However, the best steroid plan has not yet been figured out. Researchers continue to compare different steroid medications and different dosing options. Healthcare providers should talk to families about the different options, so that families can make more informed choices about the best steroid plan.

To learn more:

  • Read PPMD's Fact Sheet on steroid use.
  • “Neurology” section of the TREAT-NMD recommendations
  • Moxley RT et al. Practice Parameter: Corticosteroid treatment of Duchenne dystrophy: Report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the Practice Committee of the Child Neurology Society. Neurology 2005 64: 13-20.