Corticosteroid physiology and principles of therapy

Indian J Pediatr. 2008 Oct;75(10):1039-44. doi: 10.1007/s12098-008-0208-1. Epub 2008 Nov 21.


The adrenal cortex secretes glucocorticoids (GC), mineralocorticoids (MC) and androgens. GC maintain homeostasis, MC regulate fluid and electrolyte balance and adrenal androgens contribute to development of secondary sexual characteristics. Pharmacologic GC therapy is frequently indicated in the pediatric age group. Besides having many important side effects, prolonged high dose systemic GC therapy has a suppressive effect on endogenous steroid production. Therefore, GC therapy should be withdrawn gradually and stopped based on assessment of hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis recovery. Patients with HPA axis suppression require physiological replacement of GC along with enhancement of doses during periods of stress. Due to its immunosuppressive effects, issues about safety and efficacy of live virus vaccines in patients receiving systemic high dose GC therapy must be borne in mind.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex / metabolism
  • Androgens* / pharmacology
  • Androgens* / physiology
  • Androgens* / therapeutic use
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Immunologic
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Glucocorticoids* / pharmacology
  • Glucocorticoids* / physiology
  • Glucocorticoids* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / drug effects
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / metabolism
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology
  • Mineralocorticoids* / pharmacology
  • Mineralocorticoids* / physiology
  • Mineralocorticoids* / therapeutic use
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism


  • Androgens
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Mineralocorticoids