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Updated 11 February 2013

Dexamethasone

Dexamethasone is a potent corticosteroid drug. It is highly effective in treating inflammatory and allergic disorders, and is often prescribed in cases of anaphylactic shock.

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Dexamethasone is the active ingredient of Decasone, Maxidex, Micro Dexamethasone and Minimps Dexamethasone.

Dexamethasone is also one of multiple active ingredients found in Maxitrol, Sofradex and Tobradex.

General Information

Dexamethasone is a potent corticosteroid drug. It is highly effective in treating inflammatory and allergic disorders, and is often prescribed in cases of anaphylactic shock (a life threatening allergic reaction that is characterised by a drop in blood pressure, difficulty breathing and swelling). It is also of extreme importance in keeping swelling of the brain at bay.

Dexamethasone is furthermore prescribed in conditions such rheumatoid arthritis, where both its immuno-suppressive and anti-inflammatory properties are applied.

After use, the drug should be stopped as instructed by a doctor, as sudden discontinuation (especially if prescribed in high doses) may cause unpleasant side effects. It should therefore generally be reserved for short-term use.

How does dexamethasone work?

Dexamethasone mimics the effect of corticosteroids found in the human body. It reduces the effect of inflammatory chemicals, and also suppresses the effect of the body's immune system.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: Schedule 4

Available as: Dexamethasone is available as tablets, suspension, cream, injection, ointment, suspension and drops.

What does it do? Dexamethasone reduces inflammation, allergic reactions and swelling

Overdose risk: Low

Dependence risk: Low

Is dexamethasone available as a generic? Yes

Is dexamethasone available on prescription only? Yes

User information

Onset of effect: Within 2 hours

Duration of action: 2-6 days

Dietary advice: The oral form can be taken with food; your doctor may require you to follow a low-salt diet while being treated with this medication.

Stopping this medicine: After use the drug should be stopped as instructed by a doctor, as sudden discontinuation (especially if prescribed in high doses) may cause unpleasant side effects.

Prolonged use: Prolonged use can lead to serious side effects, including weight gain and fragile bones.

Special precautions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if:

  • You have bone disease
  • You have a history of chicken pox or measles
  • You have diabetes
  • You have a serious infection
  • You had TB
  • You are suffering from depression or mental illness
  • You are taking any other medication.

Pregnancy: Avoid. Potential risk to the foetus has been reported. Consult your doctor before use, or if you are planning to fall pregnant.

Breastfeeding: Avoid. This medication is passed through breast milk and may affect your baby adversely. Consult your doctor before use.

Porphyria: This medication is safe to use.

Infants and children: Side effects may occur. Use strictly as prescribed.

Elderly: Caution is advised in the elderly, as adverse reactions may be more likely.

Driving and hazardous work: Caution is advised, as use of this medication may lead to dizziness, light-headedness and/or sedation. Avoid such activities until you know how this medication affects you.

Alcohol: Avoid concomitant use of alcohol with this medication to minimise damage to the stomach.

Possible side effects:

Side effect

Frequency

Consult your doctor

Common

Rare

Only if severe

In all cases

Increased appetite

x

x

Indigestion

x

x

Nervousness/ Insomnia

x

x

High blood pressure

x

x

Weight gain

x

x

Swelling

x

x

Headache/dizziness

x

x

Changes in blood sugar

x

x

Muscle weakness

x

x

Brittle bone

x

x

Frequent urination

x

x

Thirst

x

x

Change in mood

x

x

Hallucinations/confusion

x

x

Rash

x

x

Interactions:

Drug interactions:

Aminoglutethimide

Accelerates dexamethasone metabolism.

Amphoterecin B

Risk of low levels of potassium

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Increased risk of bleeding and ulceration

Warfarin

Reduced effect of warfarin

Anti-diabetics

Blood sugar lowering impaired

Digoxin

Heart rhythms may be affected.

Diuretics

Increased potassium loss from body

Digoxin

Increased risk of heart rhythm disturbance

Indinavir

Indinavir less effective

\Rifampicin

May reduce effect of steroid.

Disease interactions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if you have or had bone disease, chicken pox or measles, diabetes, serious infection, TB, or if you have or had depression or mental illness.

Overdose action

A small overdose is no cause for concern. In case of intentional large overdose, seek emergency medical attention.

Recommended dosage

0.5 to 2 mg once a day. Your doctor will adjust your dose according the severity of your condition.

 
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