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Natural or synthetic hormones associated with the adrenal gland. The adrenal gland and corticosteroids regulate or influence numerous body functions, including carbohydrate and protein metabolism, blood glucose levels, electrolyte and water balance, the cardiovascular system, and kidney function.

Corticosteroid drugs (also called “steroids”), which include prednisone, prednisolone, and methylprednisolone, are used to treat a variety of medical conditions, including some types of cancer, asthma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory conditions. They are also used to prevent the rejection of transplanted tissue, such as kidneys.

Since steroids are involved in regulating many physiological functions, their use can produce serious side effects, so they are often used as a last resort in treating diseases. Their most common serious side effects include osteoporosis (bone loss) and increased susceptibility to infections. Steroids can also raise blood glucose levels, so people with diabetes should monitor their blood glucose levels frequently when taking them and discuss appropriate changes in their diabetes treatment regimen with their health-care provider, if necessary.

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