Steroids are generally administered as either oral pills or by injection. Having heard of some of the side effects, people wonder if steroids are safe. The oral steroids are usually given for either inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lung
conditions. They are often given for an extended period of time. Oral steroids can have serious side effects (such as weight gain, bone circulation problems, and elevation of blood sugar). Oral steroids are given when necessary to control serious conditions.
Injectable steroids when given in an orthopedic office are usually for joint, tendon, or bursa inflammation. The injection, though it can be uncomfortable, is generally safe. The side effects from injections are not like those from the oral pills. While the pills can have effects on the body, the injection may cause occasional side effects only where they are injected.
The most common side effect is pain following the injection. People often complain of pain for two or three days after the injection. In addition, there can be a cosmetic side effect from injections. The fat under the skin can atrophy if the injection is superficial. Although rare, if this occurs, it can cause a sunken or discolored appearance that appears 6-8 weeks after the injection.
Injections are sometimes given up to two or three times to the same area. Injections should not be given directly into a tendon. Instead, the injection is placed into the sheath or space around a tendon. There have been no reports that I am aware of that describe injury to tendon or cartilage with less than three injections.
In conclusion, injection of steroid though uncomfortable, is safe and associated with only occasional cosmetic side effects.