Generic name: dexamethasone (oral) (dex a METH a sone)
Brand name: Baycadron, Decadron, Dexamethasone Intensol, DexPak, TaperDex, Hemady, Zema-Pak, ZoDex, Zonacort
Drug class: Glucocorticoids
Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid that prevents the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation.
Dexamethasone is used to treat many different inflammatory conditions such as allergic disorders and skin conditions.
Dexamethasone is also used to treat ulcerative colitis, arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, and breathing disorders.
There are many brands and forms of dexamethasone available. Not all brands are listed on this leaflet.
You should not use dexamethasone if you have a fungal infection anywhere in your body.
Tell your doctor about all your medical conditions, and all the medicines you are using. There are many other diseases that can be affected by steroid use, and many other medicines that can interact with steroids.
Your dosage may change if you have any unusual stress such as a serious illness, fever or infection, or if you have surgery or a medical emergency. Tell your doctor about any such situation that affects you during treatment.
Dexamethasone can weaken your immune system, making it easier for you to get an infection or worsening an infection you already have or have recently had. Tell your doctor about any illness or infection you have had within the past several weeks.
Call your doctor for preventive treatment if you are exposed to chicken pox or measles. These conditions can be serious or even fatal in people who are using steroid medication.
All vaccines may not work as well while you are taking a steroid. Do not receive a "live" vaccine while you are taking this medicine.
Do not stop using dexamethasone suddenly, or you could have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Talk to your doctor about how to avoid withdrawal symptoms when stopping the medication.
Before taking this medicine
You should not use dexamethasone if you are allergic to it, or if you have:
- a fungal infection anywhere in your body.
Tell your doctor if you have ever had:
- liver disease (such as cirrhosis);
- a thyroid disorder;
- a muscle disorder such as myasthenia gravis;
- diabetes (steroid medicine may increase glucose levels in your blood or urine);
- glaucoma or cataracts;
- herpes infection of the eyes;
- stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease;
- depression or mental illness;
- congestive heart failure; or
- high blood pressure.
Steroid medication affects your immune system. You may get infections more easily. Steroids can also worsen or reactivate an infection you've already had. Tell your doctor about any illness or infection you have had within the past several weeks.
It is not known whether this medicine will harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant before using this medication.
Talk to your doctor before breastfeeding while using dexamethasone.
How should I take dexamethasone?
Take dexamethasone exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Follow all directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides or instruction sheets. Your doctor may occasionally change your dose. Use the medicine exactly as directed.
Your dose needs may change due to surgery, illness, stress, or a medical emergency. Tell your doctor about any such situation that affects you.
This medicine can affect the results of certain medical tests. Tell any doctor who treats you that you are using this medicine.
Do not stop using dexamethasone suddenly, or you could have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Ask your doctor how to safely stop using this medicine.
In case of emergency, wear or carry medical identification to let others know you use this medicine.
Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Call your doctor for instructions if you miss a dose of this medicine.
What happens if I overdose?
Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.
An overdose of dexamethasone is not expected to produce life threatening symptoms. Long term use of high doses can lead to thinning skin, easy bruising, changes in body fat (especially in your face, neck, back, and waist), increased acne or facial hair, menstrual problems, impotence, or loss of interest in sex.
What to avoid
Avoid being near people who are sick or have infections. Call your doctor for preventive treatment if you are exposed to chickenpox or measles. These conditions can be serious or even fatal in people who are using steroid medicine.
Avoid drinking alcohol while you are taking dexamethasone.
Do not receive a "live" vaccine while using this medicine. The vaccine may not work as well during this time, and may not fully protect you from disease. Live vaccines include measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), oral polio, rotavirus, oral typhoid, yellow fever, varicella (chickenpox), and subcutaneous zoster (shingles).
Dexamethasone side effects
Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction to dexamethasone: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Call your doctor at once if you have:
- muscle tightness, weakness, or limp feeling;
- blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain, or seeing halos around lights;
- shortness of breath (even with mild exertion), swelling, rapid weight gain;
- severe depression, unusual thoughts or behavior;
- a seizure (convulsions);
- bloody or tarry stools, coughing up blood;
- fast or slow heart rate, weak pulse;
- pancreatitis - severe pain in your upper stomach spreading to your back, nausea and vomiting;
- low potassium level - leg cramps, constipation, irregular heartbeats, fluttering in your chest, increased thirst or urination, numbness or tingling; or
- increased blood pressure - severe headache, blurred vision, pounding in your neck or ears, anxiety, nosebleed.
Dexamethasone can affect growth in children. Tell your doctor if your child is not growing at a normal rate while using this medicine.
Common dexamethasone side effects may include:
- fluid retention (swelling in your hands or ankles);
- increased appetite;
- mood changes, trouble sleeping;
- skin rash, bruising or discoloration;
- acne, increased sweating, increased hair growth;
- headache, dizziness;
- nausea, vomiting, upset stomach;
- changes in your menstrual periods; or
- changes in the shape or location of body fat (especially in your arms, legs, face, neck, breasts, and waist).
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What other drugs will affect dexamethasone?
Sometimes it is not safe to use certain medications at the same time. Some drugs can affect your blood levels of other drugs you take, which may increase side effects or make the medications less effective.
Tell your doctor about all your current medicines. Many drugs can interact with dexamethasone, especially:
- an antibiotic or antifungal medicine;
- birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy;
- insulin or diabetes medications you take by mouth;
- medicine to treat dementia or Parkinson's disease;
- a blood thinner - warfarin, Coumadin, Jantoven; or
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) - aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), celecoxib, diclofenac, indomethacin, meloxicam, and others.
This list is not complete and many other drugs may affect dexamethasone. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible drug interactions are listed here.