Do I Need a Steroid Shot?

We get a lot of patients that come in for a variety of foot/ankle conditions that are due to increased inflammation. This inflammation might be occurring in a joint, along a tendon, a ligament, a bursa, a nerve or other anatomical structures.  Many of our patients have had steroid shots in the past, most commonly the knees.  Some people are very familiar with steroid shots and others have no idea, so the purpose of this blog is to give everyone a little background. 

A steroid (also known as cortisone) injection is a synthetic medication that closely relates to our bodies production of cortisol which is secreted during stress.  Cortisol has a very short duration while cortisone lasts longer.  Cortisone is not the same type of steroid used for performance enhancement in athletes.   There are also multiple types of cortisone used for different areas of the body. 

Cortisone is a strong anti-inflammatory and instead of taking large doses by mouth and a small amount reaches your foot, we put a small amount of medication right at the site of concern.  There are also fewer side effects with a local injection vs oral medication.

Although cortisone injections are very safe, anytime something enters your body there is a chance of a side effect or complication.  The most common side effect we see is a steroid flare.  This is your body’s response to the steroid that can cause an increase in pain at the injection site for hours or several days.  There is really no way to predict if this will happen to you.  Less common side effects include skin thinning or discoloration.  It is also important to know that cortisone can increase your blood glucose so diabetics must understand to keep a close eye on their sugars.  Another side effect with the injection is that it can weaken nearby structures, because of this, we cannot put cortisone injections at certain areas of the body.  There is also is a certain number of injections you can receive in a set time. 

As you can see, the answer is not a clear yes or no.  There are multiple factors that go into a steroid shot including what is the reason for your pain, where is the pain located, what medical problems you have, etc. 

At Advanced Foot and Ankle, our provides have experience with this and make this decision many times each day.  If you have a question about this or any other foot/ankle condition.  Please call us at 972-542-2155. 

Thank you and have a wonderful day,

Dr. Witt

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