Corticosteroid Injections For Axial Spondyloarthritis Treatment

Axial spondyloarthritis (AxSpA) is a chronic, progressive condition. Treatments are available to help manage the condition, but there is no cure. Since there is no cure, the goals of treatment are to:1

  • Maximize quality of life
  • Prevent or slow progressive structural damage
  • Control symptoms and inflammation
  • Preserve mobility

Various medicines can be used to help treat AxSpA spectrum conditions, including corticosteroid injections. These injections are not first-line treatments and should not be used long-term. However, corticosteroid injections may provide some joint pain relief, though there is no direct evidence of their effectiveness.2

How do corticosteroid injections help AxSpa?

Corticosteroids are both anti-inflammatory and are immunosuppressive. This means they both reduce inflammation and work with your immune system to affect the immune response. They are chemically similar to the hormone cortisol. This hormone has anti-inflammatory properties and is naturally made in our adrenal glands3

Corticosteroids can be given in several ways. Injections can be given:3

  • Into a muscle (intramuscularly)
  • Into a vein (intravenously), though this method is not common for AxSpA)
  • Into a joint (intra-articular)

When injected into a joint, this relieves inflammation and the overall inflammatory process. The effects can last for several months. However, if used long-term, this can cause a loss of cartilage.3

Examples of corticosteroid injections

There are many kinds of corticosteroids. You and your doctor can discuss the benefits of each one, along with your medical history, to find the right one for you.

What are the possible side effects of corticosteroid injections?

Side effects of corticosteroid injections can vary depending on the specific drug you are taking. Side effects may include:5

  • Pain or soreness at the injection site
  • Cartilage damage
  • Joint infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Death of nearby bone
  • Facial flushing
  • Temporary elevation of blood sugar
  • Thinning of nearby bone, skin, and/or soft tissue
  • Tendon weakening or rupture

These are not all the possible side effects of steroid injections. Talk to your doctor about what to expect or if you experience any changes that concern you during treatment with steroid injections.

Things to know about corticosteroid injections

Corticosteroid injections for AxSpA are not a long-term solution and should not be used as such.

If you take blood thinners, you might need to stop taking them several days before your shot. If you have had a fever or been sick for 2 weeks before a corticosteroid injection, let your doctor know.5

Before beginning treatment for AxSpa, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

Additional treatment options

Corticosteroid injections are not the only treatment that can be used to help treat AxSpA spectrum conditions. Plus, they should not be used alone or long term.

If you find that corticosteroid injections do not work for you, other treatments are available. This includes non-drug treatments like physical therapy and lifestyle changes. Talk to your doctor about the treatments that may be right for you and your symptoms.

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Written by: Jaime Rochelle Herndon | Last reviewed: May 2021