Patients who take high doses of steroids are more than twice as likely to have cardiovascular complications than patients who do not, say researchers based on findings of a recent study. Steroids are widely used to treat inflammatory conditions of the skin, lungs, joints, digestive tract, such as asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and some types of arthritis.
The health records of 68,781 people who used steroids between 1993 and 1996 and 82,202 people who did not use steroids were evaluated . The patients were tracked for one to five years. Researchers defined high steroid use as more than 7.5 milligrams of oral, inhaled, topical, rectal and nasal steroids daily.
Results showed patients who used high-dose steroids had 2.5-times the risk of developing cardiovascular disease overall than patients who did not use high doses of steroids. Though the study did not determine if steroids directly caused heart disease, researchers say the association is strong enough for doctors and patients to consider the risks of high-dose steroid use.