Steroid phobia in India
Asthma preventer inhalers contain small quantity of corticosteroids. The mention of the word “steroid” makes most patients balk at the idea of using inhalers. What is it about steroids that most people are afraid of them?
I always mention that “bad doctors and bad patient give steroids a bad name”
Bad doctors, who prescribe steroids liberally or for longer than is necessary, are placing patients at risk of side effect. Side effects like weight gain, increased appetite, increased blood sugar and brittle bones.
And then there are bad patients who have been clearly told by their doctor to take oral steroids for, say, 10 days only but continue to take them for months! Naturally, there will be side effects.
This problem can be compounded when a bad doctor and a bad patient come together and misuse steroids!!
Misuse of steroids can certainly lead to side effects. And anecdotes and stories of these misadventures go around and create fear in the mind of patients. So it is not uncommon to get well meaning, but incorrect, advice like- “My uncle took steroid tablets for a year and he developed diabetes. These are like poison. Please don’t take them”
Casual cautionary or negative comments by pharmacist, general practitioners, relatives or other patients can also fuel this anxiety. The Internet and blogs too create a fear psychosis.
The general anxiety related to oral steroids then gets translated to inhaled steroids too. This is unfortunate. Asthma inhalers have only minute quantities of steroids. Thus they are really very safe.
These phobias or fears act as a stumbling block or a hindrance in patients taking steroid inhalers regularly. Thus the asthma is poorly controlled and permanent damage occurs in the lungs.
The irony is that had these patients taken the inhalers regularly they would have gained a lot and never have suffered any side effects, that they feared.