Hydrocortisone is the name given to a drug that contains cortisol. It is commercially available under the name hydrocortisone or under various trade names. If necessary, you can choose from a variety of routes of administration. There are oral formulations, intravenous injections, and topical hydrocortisone ointments.
Specialists use hydrocortisone to treat various diseases, such as adrenal insufficiency, adrenogenital syndrome, hypercalcemia, thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). We’ll deal with this in more detail later in this article.
Hydrocortisone was discovered as early as 1955 and is included in the WHO (World Health Organization) list of drugs that must be available to the healthcare system.
The main indications for the use of hydrocortisone
Hydrocortisone is classified as a corticosteroid drug, so it can be used in many situations. First of all, hydrocortisone reduces inflammation, so it is given as an anti-inflammatory drug when needed.
It also has an immunosuppressive effect. For this reason, it can be used to treat autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (in addition to its anti-inflammatory effects). Doctors also prescribe it for people with asthma or other lung diseases.
Hydrocortisone can be indicated for the treatment or prevention of allergic reactions and for the treatment of various cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma.
In addition, research indicates that doctors use it as a steroid replacement therapy for conditions with adrenal insufficiency. This type of disease develops with a decrease in the production of the required levels of steroids.
Other indications for the use of hydrocortisone are as follows:
- Stimulating the appetite in patients with cancer who have serious problems of this type.
- As an ointment that treats allergic skin reactions, and soothes symptoms of itching, redness and swelling.
- To prevent and treat nausea and vomiting associated with some cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.
Mechanism of action: how does hydrocortisone affect the body?
The effects of hydrocortisone, as well as all endogenous corticosteroids secreted by the cortex of the adrenal glands, are due to enzymatic modifications that they produce, not to a specific action of the hormone.
Hydrocortisone has a mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid action. The former changes the fluid and electrolyte balance, which facilitates the reabsorption of sodium and hydrogen and the excretion of potassium. As a result, it is an effective remedy for edema and high blood pressure.
As for how glucocorticoids work, they are part of other metabolic pathways, such as:
- Fat redistribution.
- Protein metabolism.
- Calcium balance.
On the other hand, hydrocortisone also has an anti-inflammatory effect due to its ability to inhibit phospholipase A2, which is a molecule belonging to the lipocortin family.
These substances modulate the synthesis of inflammatory mediators. Therefore, because they are inhibited, these molecules cannot be synthesized and the inflammatory problem can be alleviated.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that hydrocortisone also inhibits the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone from the pituitary gland. This effect is important because when the drug is administered in high doses and for a long time, the adrenal cortex may disappear.
Side effects of hydrocortisone
Hydrocortisone, like other drugs on the market, can cause a number of side effects. Professionals define side effects as all expected events that occur undesirably and unintentionally during treatment with a given drug. The action of hydrocortisone is similar to that of cortisol.
It should be noted that not everyone experiences these reactions or that they do not manifest themselves in the same way. In other words, side effects vary from patient to patient. In addition, they are usually reversible and generally resolve spontaneously over time.
As for the most common ones, i.e. those with a frequency of more than 30%, it is worth mentioning:
- Increased appetite.
- Abdominal pain.
- Fluid retention.
Hydrocortisone is the name given to cortisol when given as a drug. Doctors and specialists use it to treat many ailments. In addition, you should always follow your doctor’s instructions, as misuse can cause unwanted reactions in the body.