How Is Wegener's Granulomatosis Treated?
In most cases, treatment consists of a combination of a glucocorticoid (a steroid) and a cytotoxic medicine. Although these medicines are helpful in treating Wegener's granulomatosis, they can have potentially serious side effects. In many instances, these problems can be minimized or prevented through careful monitoring.
Prednisone is the most common glucocorticoid that doctors use for treating Wegener's granulomatosis. Prednisone is similar to cortisol, the natural glucocorticoid hormone produced by the body. It is chemically different from the anabolic steroids that have been used by athletes, and is given in much higher doses than the body normally produces.
In people with Wegener's granulomatosis, doctors usually give prednisone as a single morning dose to try to imitate how the body normally secretes cortisol. If the person's illness improves, the prednisone dosage is gradually decreased and converted to an every-other-day dosing schedule, usually over a period of three to four months. If there is further improvement, the medication is gradually decreased and then discontinued completely after approximately 6 to 12 months.
When prednisone is taken by mouth, the body stops making its own natural cortisol. As the dose is gradually reduced, the body will resume making cortisol again. It is extremely important that prednisone never be stopped suddenly, because the body requires prednisone (or cortisol) to function and may not be able to immediately make what it needs.
This medication can affect the body's ability to fight off infection. People taking prednisone for Wegener's granulomatosis should report immediately any symptoms of infection and, specifically, any fever to their doctors. Prednisone can also cause: