Corticosteroids - Introduction
NHS Choices Medical Reference
Corticosteroids are any type of medication that contain steroids. Steroids are a type of hormone. Hormones are groups of powerful chemicals that have a wide range of effects on the body.
Corticosteroids are commonly used to:
- reduce inflammation,
- suppress the immune system, and
- replace hormones in the body.
Corticosteroids should not be confused with anabolic steroids, which are sometimes used (illegally) by bodybuilders and athletes. Unlike anabolic steroids, corticosteroids do not affect muscle strength.
Types of corticosteroids
Corticosteroids are available in a number of different forms including:
- tablets: oral corticosteroids,
- sprays and inhalers: inhaled corticosteroids,
- creams and lotions: topical corticosteroids, and
- injections: these can be injected into the bloodstream (intravenous corticosteroids) or into an affected muscle or joint.
This section focuses on oral, injected and inhaled corticosteroids. See Useful links for more information about topical corticosteroids.