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Last Updated on March 16, 2024

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Dexamethasone is one of the main drugs used to suppress the body’s defense system (immune system) and to fight inflammation in the body. The drug belongs to the group of medicines called corticosteroids (“cortisone”), which are prescribed often limited because of their strong side effects. Adverse reactions have been used correctly, however, readily controllable – a false “Kortikoidangst” should one of many diseases quite meaningful treatment therefore does not stand in the way. Here you can read everything about Dexamethasone.

How Dexamethasone works

The human body has an efficient defense system that protects the organism against the penetration of foreign pathogens. In some diseases, however, this complex system is activated continuously – there is inflammation, which are partially directed against one’s own body and can cause great damage in the tissue

In this case, it is usually necessary to suppress the immune system to treat the symptoms of inflammation.

The active ingredient Dexamethasone is a potent corticoid, which inhibits the formation of inflammation-mediating signaling substances (prostaglandins). At the same time the formation of new cells of the immune system is reduced. So inflammatory processes are stopped and suppressed immune responses.

Pharmacokinetics and metabolism of Dexamethasone

When ingested, Dexamethasone is absorbed rapidly and almost completely from the gut. The effect then enters after about one and a half hours. The degradation of the active ingredient takes place mainly in the liver. The degradation products are excreted through the kidneys.

When should you use Dexamethasone?

Among the areas of application (indications) of Dexamethasone include:

  • Inflammatory diseases of the skin (eczema)
  • Severe acute asthma attacks
  • fluid retention in the brain (cerebral edema)
  • (autoimmune disease)
  • inflammation of the joints (arthritis)
  • and tuberculosis (with simultaneous antibacterial treatment)
  • the prevention of nausea and vomiting in the context of cancer treatment (in combination with other active ingredients)
  • Psoriasis ()
  • triggering of lung maturity to risk of preterm birth between the 24th and 34th week of pregnancy

How is Dexamethasone used?

Depending on the type of disease is Dexamethasone intravenously or intramuscularly injected, applied as an ointment on the eye or on the skin or swallowed as a tablet.

tablets should be taken in the morning with or after a meal.

The Dexamethasone-dose will depend on the nature and severity of the disease. So may be sufficient daily four milligrams; However, in severe, acute cases, the dose can be increased to up to 100 milligrams per day.

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Patients who suffer from liver dysfunction, receive a reduced dose.

Sometimes it makes sense that Dexamethasone treatment to start with a very high daily dose, and then gradually reduce the dosage for improvement of symptoms.

In acute stress (for example, pain, accident or illness) may be increased to the corticoid requirement. A situation-dependent adaptation of the Dexamethasone dose should always be carried out in consultation with the attending physician. In the best case, a patient always wears a “corticoid-card” with them.

What are the side effects of Dexamethasone?

Dexamethasone can lead to numerous side effects particularly with longer and higher-dose application.

Among the side effects that can occur relatively quickly after ingestion, include:

  • water retention
  • acne
  • Diabetes (diabetes)

For the following side effects occur, especially after prolonged treatment duration:

  • bone loss (osteoporosis)
  • stunted growth in children and adolescents
  • (glaucoma)
  • immunodeficiency and thus to a higher susceptibility to diseases
  • muscle breakdown
  • fat redistribution in the body
  • lesions (striae)
  • renal impairment

What should I watch for while taking Dexamethasone?


Dexamethasone should be prescribed in certain situations only after strict risk-benefit assessment by the physician. These include:

  • acute viral, bacterial and parasitic diseases
  • vaccinations with live vaccines
  • fungal infection of the internal organs
  • polio
  • Tuberculosis
  • gastrointestinal ulcers


Children and youth who are in the growth phase should take Dexamethasone only after strict risk-benefit assessment by the responsible physician. The same is true for older patients who are at high risk for bone loss.


With a simultaneous intake of drugs to neutralize the gastric juice (antacids), the efficacy of Dexamethasone be reduced.

The effects and side effects of Dexamethasone may be affected by co-administration of the following active ingredients:

  • rifampicin (antibiotic)
  • Phenytoin, Carbamazepine and primidone (for epilepsy)
  • barbiturates (sleeping pills and tranquilizers)
  • ketoconazole and itraconazole (for fungal infections)
  • ephedrine (etc with low blood pressure.)

Dexamethasone can also influence the effects and side effects of other medications. When taking the following active ingredients possible interactions should be observed:

  • cardioactive glycosides
  • high blood pressure medicines from the group of ACE inhibitors (Captopril, Enalapril, Ramipril)
  • laxative
  • (diuretics)
  • remedy for diabetes (antidiabetic)
  • blood-thinning agent is selected from the group of coumarins
  • painkillers (such as aspirin, Ibuprofen or Indomethacin)
  • muscle relaxing drugs (muscle relaxants)
  • called anticholinergics such as solifenacin and darifenacin (for irritable bladder) or atropine (as an emergency medication and pupil dilation before eye examinations)
  • other medications that suppress the immune system
  • antibiotics from the group of fluoroquinolones (such as Ciprofloxacin and Levofloxacin)

Pregnancy and lactation

The active ingredient Dexamethasone may be taken only after strict medical benefit-risk assessment. The maximum daily dose should not exceed this 2.25 milligrams.

Better proven alternatives during pregnancy are the corticosteroids Prednisone and Prednisolone.

In order to promote lung maturity in preterm infants, the active ingredient Betamethasone should be used instead of Dexamethasone.

How to get Dexamethasone

Dexamethasone is the most powerful drug from the group of glucocorticoids. Therefore, medications that contain Dexamethasone, only with a prescription from a doctor to the pharmacy to buy.

More interesting facts about Dexamethasone

Dexamethasone to suppress the skin reaction to allergy tests. Before any allergy tests should therefore be discussed with the doctor, if and when the drug should be discontinued in order not to distort the result.

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