Prednisone Mechanism of Action

Prednisone Mechanism of Action
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  • 0:04 What Is Prednisone?
  • 1:12 Mechanism of Action
  • 2:00 Case Study
  • 3:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Bryant

Sarah has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and an active Registered Nurse license. She teaches in hospitals, clinics and the classroom.

This lesson will go over the basics of how prednisone works within the body. It will explain related medical terms, how this type of steroid affects the body, how it helps, some risks associated with prednisone, and specifically where the medicine acts within the body.

What Is Prednisone?

Prednisone is a type of medicine that is classified as an adrenal corticosteroid, which means that it is a synthetic (or created) form of a hormone. The hormone that prednisone replicates comes from the adrenal gland, located at the top of the kidneys. Most specifically, it originates in the outer layer of that gland, which is called the adrenal cortex.

Prednisone is not the only type of corticosteroid and it might easily be confused with prednisolone. While prednisolone and cortisone can be taken orally or by injection, prednisone may only be taken orally. Corticosteroids like these are often used to treat conditions including:

  • Severe allergies
  • Breathing problems
  • Some types of cancer
  • Eye problems
  • Blood disorders
  • Arthritis
  • Immune system disorders

It should be noted that prednisone should only be used for short-term therapy. Using prednisone for extended amounts of time can be harmful because the body becomes dependent on the synthetic hormone. When your body gets accustomed to synthetic formulations, sometimes it decides it doesn't need to create the hormone naturally, which becomes a secondary and chronic problem.

Mechanism of Action

Let's follow a dose of prednisone as it goes to work. First, the medication is taken orally, preferably with food. It will travel through the digestive system and work its way into the liver. On the way, a group of enzymes called 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase in the liver will convert prednisone to prednisolone, a usable form of the drug to your body.

Once prednisone is broken down into prednisolone, it will work on the body in a therapeutic manner in the form of an immunosuppressant, an anti-inflammatory agent. Essentially, this medication suppresses, or blocks, the immune system's response, which can be good and bad. Prednisone also produces an anti-inflammatory response, which means it stops the body's inflammation, or swelling response, to protect itself from perceived threats.

Case Study

Pretend that you have asthma and one of the triggers that causes your asthma to flare up is pet dander. When you are exposed to this trigger, your airways will start getting tight, breathing becomes more difficult, your throat gets itchy, and you have increased mucus production, such as watery eyes.

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