Steroids are found in animals, fungi, plants and elsewhere and many steroids are necessary to life at all levels. They are natural hormones produced by human body to helps in regulating body function.

While steroid medicines are man-made but are similar to these natural hormones. They are usually controlled medicines and these products must be registered with Ministry of Health, Malaysia. It requires professional advice from doctor or pharmacist depending on the types of preparations before one can consume it.

Types of Steroids

There are two types of steroids which are anabolic steroids and corticosteroids . The anabolic steroid is a synthetic steroid which has similar function as male sex hormones. Doctors use anabolic steroids to treat some hormone problems in men, such as delayed puberty and muscles loss from some diseases. However, there are potential abuse among body builders and athletes to build muscles and improve their performance in sports. This may lead to many health problem. Anabolic steroids are usually either taken orally or injected into the muscles.

On the other hand, corticosteroids are widely used to relieve inflamations due to some immune responses. Some example of corticosteroids are prednisolone, dexamethasone and bethamethasone. They are widely prescribed by doctors for various medical conditions and are available in various form of preparation such as:

  • Cream
  • Inhaler
  • Eye drop
  • Injection

The different types of preparation of corticosteroids are used to treat different types of illnesses. For example, the eczema patients will be given steroids in the form of cream to be applied to the affected area of the skin. The inhaler preparation is most commonly used in asthamatic patients to ease their lung constriction . While, capsule or tablet are normally prescribed to patients with gout or arthritis.

Use of Steroids

In modern medicine, anabolic steroids like testeterone can boost in muscle generation and prevent muscle breakdown in the body. Doctors normally prescribe this medicine to Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome patients who experience muscle degradation.

On the other hand, corticosteroids help in reducing inflammation. It also suppress overactive immune response of the body. Due to its anti-inflammatory property, corticosteroids are commonly used by patients with asthma and arthritis. It is also used as a treatment for lupus (chronic inflammation), eczema, psoriasis and allergic reaction. Corticosteroids are also given to patients receiving organ transplant to minimise organ rejection by the body.

Side effects

A short course of steroids usually causes no side-effects. Side effects of steroids are more common with a higher dose and longer treatment. Side effects are also much more common with oral drugs. Some side effects are more serious than others and the benefits of taking steroids usually outweigh the risk of taking it. Common side effects of steroids include:

  1. Nausea and vomiting are the most common side effects that may occur after steroid consumption. Those with gastric problems, smokers or alcoholics has higher risk to get ulcers in their stomach and intestine.
  2. Steroid users might experience sharp increase in body weight. Facial area might become swollen and this condition known as ‘moon face’.
  3. Apart from that, the male users might experience some hair loss. However, this condition is temporary during treatment period and the hair will grow once treatment stopped.
  4. The skin might become thinner and bruised easily . The user are also prone to acne.
  5. Prolonged use of steroids may have risk of developing ; hypertensions, diabetes and osteoporosis that causes bones to crack easily.
  6. Steroid could inhibit growth hormone in children, therefore long term of exposure to steroid may inhibit their growth.
  7. Long term use of eye drop containing steroids may increase the production of eye membrane and lead to cataract. If this condition is left untreated, users might loss their eyesight.

Special referrals of steroid usage

Patients are normally prescribed with steroid for short period of time, unless otherwise indicated. Due to its critical side effects, long term use of steroids are not recommended, unless advised by doctors.

A common treatment plan is to start with a high dose to control symptoms. If the treatment plan is for more than three weeks, doctor will reduced the dose slowly to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, for a long term treatment streroid should not be stopped abruptly.

Steroids should be avoided in patients diagnosed with infection as steroid may blunt immune system which will worsen the infection. Patients who are currently taking this medicine must take extra precaution of the risk of getting infection because of the weaken immune system.

Patients are also advised to avoid the use of painkiller and steroid at the same time. Therefore, steroids should always be taken only after meal. The concurrent use of these medicines will increase the chance of gastritis.

Danger of Steroid/Steroid Misuse

Nowadays, there are many products especially food and cosmetics being adulterated by the irrespossible manufactures to enhance their products. They add steroids into their products to enhance the products efficacy.

We are commonly being fed by ‘Magic Medicine’ that claimed to treat many types of diseases. We should be careful with those medicine or food with extravagant medical claims as they may contain steroid components. This is commonly seen in medicines that used to miraculosly stop knee pain after consumption of the product.

Traditional medicines that are contaminated with steroids can be easily obtained in retail shops. Some examples of products tested positive with steroids are;

  • Tunglin
  • Majun Dua Istimewa
  • Gamat Ikan Haruan Plus
  • Majun Taufiq Dua Istimewa
  • Delima Raja Urat
  • Madu Adunan Herba

These products are not only contaiminated with steroids but also not registered with the Ministry of Health, Malaysia. Therefore, it is not certain that these products are safe and effective. The anabolic steroids are used to increase muscle mass. Using this medicine during any sports competition will render fail in dopping test.

It is not recommended to use steroid without proper advise from health professional. Therefore as a consumers it is advisable to be more vigilant with the product you consumed. As for medicines always check for registration numbers and keep updated with list of adulterated product banned in Malaysia.


Last Reviewed : 06 November 2014
Writer/Translator : Azilea bt. Ghazali
Reviewer : Munira bt. Muhammad