Book Review: Coping With Prednisone

Prednisone Was Considered a Miracle in the 1950s.

Book: Coping With Prednisone

In the early 1950s, cortisone became available and was proclaimed a wonder drug, a virtual miracle for treating an array of serious illnesses. Along with such great expectations and the obvious benefits of the drug, the downside of adverse side effects became apparent. "Coping With Prednisone" is the personal story of a woman who was prescribed high dose steroids for a prolonged period of time to treat a rare lung condition.

The book, which was originally published in 1997, was updated and revised in 2007.

High-Dose Steroids

Eugenia Zukerman, along with her sister who is a physician, wrote the book as a guide for people on high dose steroids so that they may learn how to better cope with its effects. The book is also valuable for the loved ones and caregivers of patients on high dose steroids. In the book, prednisone (the most commonly prescribed glucocorticoid) is viewed as both a cure and a curse. For some serious illnesses, prednisone is the only treatment option that can reverse a grave situation. Yet, there are serious side effects that must be considered because for some people they are overwhelming. High dose steroids can trigger depression, anxiety, panic, mood swings, sleep disturbances, and other psychiatric side effects. Weight gain, redistribution of body fat, skin and hair changes, eye changes, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and immune changes are among other possible side effects.

How much difficulty steroid use actually will cause is variable among different people. "Coping With Prednisone" offers advice on beating the munchies and the bloat caused by steroid use, the importance of attitude and communication, the necessity of understanding your own condition and becoming a partner in your own healthcare.

The Dark Side of Prednisone

There is also a discussion about second opinions and changing doctors. An extensive section of recipes is indicative of what helped the author battle the weight gain, as well as a section devoted to exercise which is important for minimizing bone loss and loss of muscle mass. A comprehensive chart focuses on the various types, potency, and brands of steroids which are available.

The book is easy to read and comprehend. It tackles the dark side of prednisone use, but by doing so, it offers comfort to people in the same or similar situation. The personal experience of Eugenia Zukerman becomes a shared experience and a new awareness of the potential negative effects of prednisone use emerges after reading the book.

Eugenia Zukerman is a renowned flutist, arts correspondent for CBS-TV’s "Sunday Morning" and a writer, living in New York City. Her sister, Julie R. Ingelfinger, M.D., is chief of the Division of Pediatric Nephrology at Massachusetts General Hospital, director of her own research lab, associate professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and writer, living in Boston.