The efficacy and safety of low-dose corticosteroids for rheumatoid arthritis

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 1991 Aug;21(1):1-11. doi: 10.1016/0049-0172(91)90051-z.


Low-dose corticosteroids (defined as less than or equal to 10 mg/d of prednisone or equivalent) are used increasingly for the management of rheumatoid arthritis. They are frequently substituted for nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), particularly in patients with gastrointestinal or other intolerance to NSAIDs, or as "bridge therapy" while patients await the benefits of delayed-acting, disease-modifying agents. Despite their clinical acceptance, published data concerning efficacy are meager. Adverse effects to low-dose corticosteroids are not so frequent nor so severe as those that occur with higher doses. Nevertheless, alterations in glucose metabolism, cutaneous atrophy, cataracts, and glaucoma are common. Osteoporosis, steroid-myopathy, a steroid-withdrawal syndrome, and dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis appear in some patients. Osteonecrosis, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, infectious, or neurological complications probably do not occur. Fetal wastage, prematurity, or congenital malformations have not been proven with this dosage.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage*
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Bone Diseases / chemically induced
  • Coronary Disease / chemically induced
  • Diabetes Mellitus / chemically induced
  • Eye Diseases / chemically induced
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / drug effects
  • Infections / etiology
  • Muscles / drug effects
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / drug effects
  • Pregnancy / drug effects


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones