Prednisone withdrawal: Why do I need to slowly taper down the dosage?

Answer From John M. Wilkinson, M.D.

If you abruptly stop taking prednisone or taper off too quickly, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Severe fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Body aches
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lightheadedness
  • Irritability or mood swings

In addition to withdrawal symptoms, not tapering prednisone properly could worsen the symptoms you're being treated for. And if you're taking prednisone for a long-term condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), not tapering properly could cause recurring symptoms to flare up.

Prednisone is like cortisol, a hormone naturally made by your adrenal glands. If you take prednisone for more than a few weeks, your adrenal glands decrease cortisol production. A gradual reduction in prednisone dosage gives your adrenal glands time to resume their usual function.

The amount of time it takes to taper off prednisone depends on the disease being treated, the dose and duration of use, and other medical considerations. A full recovery can take a week to several months. Contact your doctor if you experience prednisone withdrawal symptoms as you are tapering off the drug.

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips, current health topics, and expertise on managing health. Click here for an email preview.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

July 02, 2024 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. 6 tips to manage rheumatoid arthritis symptoms
  2. A Pain-Free Thumbs Up!
  3. Acetyl-L-carnitine: Can it relieve MS fatigue?
  4. Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM)
  5. Acute sinusitis
  6. Acute sinusitis: Do over-the-counter treatments help?
  7. Addison's disease
  8. Adrenal fatigue: What causes it?
  9. Albuterol side effects
  10. Alcoholic hepatitis
  11. Allergies
  12. Allergies and asthma
  13. Allergy medications: Know your options
  14. Allergy-proof your home
  15. Aplastic anemia
  16. Arthritis
  17. Arthritis pain: Do's and don'ts
  18. Aspergillosis
  19. Aspirin allergy
  20. Asthma
  21. Asthma and acid reflux
  22. Asthma attack
  23. Asthma diet
  24. Asthma inhalers: Which one's right for you?
  25. Asthma: Colds and flu
  26. Asthma medications
  27. Asthma: Testing and diagnosis
  28. Asthma treatment: 3 steps
  29. Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
  30. Atopic dermatitis: 6 ways to manage itchy skin
  31. Atopic dermatitis: Proper bathing can reduce itching
  32. Atopic dermatitis: Understand your triggers
  33. Autoimmune neurological disorder
  34. Baker cyst
  35. Behcet's disease
  36. Explaining multiple sclerosis
  37. Treating Pericarditis
  38. Bullous pemphigoid
  39. Bursitis
  40. Can I exercise if I have atopic dermatitis?
  41. Carpal tunnel exercises: Can they relieve symptoms?
  42. Carpal tunnel syndrome
  43. Carpal Tunnel Tune-Up
  44. Chagas disease
  45. Chilblains
  46. Cholestasis of pregnancy
  47. COPD
  48. Churg-Strauss syndrome
  49. Cluster headache
  50. Crohn's Crisis
  51. Crohn's disease
  52. Crohn's disease and the gut microbiome
  53. What is Crohn's disease? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  54. Crohn's or Colitis
  55. Croup
  56. De Quervain tenosynovitis
  57. Demyelinating disease: What can you do about it?
  58. Dermatomyositis
  59. Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH)
  60. Does stress make rheumatoid arthritis worse?
  61. Drug allergy
  62. Dust mite allergy
  63. Ease rheumatoid arthritis pain when grocery shopping
  64. Ease stress to reduce eczema symptoms
  65. Eczema bleach bath: Can it improve my symptoms?
  66. Emerging treatments for multiple sclerosis
  67. Emphysema
  68. Exercise and multiple sclerosis
  69. Exercising with arthritis
  70. Giant cell arteritis
  71. Glomerulonephritis
  72. Hand exercises for people with arthritis
  73. Hip labral tear
  74. How do I reduce fatigue from rheumatoid arthritis?
  75. How to treat baby eczema
  76. Hyperinflated lungs: What does it mean?
  77. Hypopituitarism
  78. I have atopic dermatitis. How can I sleep better?
  79. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  80. Inflammatory bowel disease FAQs
  81. Interstitial lung disease
  82. Is depression a factor in rheumatoid arthritis?
  83. Is there a special diet for Crohn's disease?
  84. Joint protection
  85. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis
  86. Keloid scar
  87. Knee bursitis
  88. Knee pain
  89. Living better with atopic dermatitis (eczema)
  90. Living better with Crohn's disease
  91. Living better with rheumatoid arthritis
  92. Maintain your social life with Crohn's disease
  93. Managing Headaches
  94. Mayo Clinic Minute: Eczema occurs in people of all ages
  95. Mayo Clinic Minute: Prevent migraines with magnetic stimulation
  96. Mayo Clinic Minute: Weathering migraines
  97. Mayo Clinic Minute: What parents need to know about pink eye
  98. Medication overuse headaches
  99. Migraine
  100. What is a migraine? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  101. Migraine medicines and antidepressants
  102. Migraine FAQs
  103. Migraine treatment: Can antidepressants help?
  104. Migraines and gastrointestinal problems: Is there a link?
  105. Migraines and Vertigo
  106. Migraines: Are they triggered by weather changes?
  107. Alleviating migraine pain
  108. Mixed connective tissue disease
  109. Mononucleosis
  110. Mononucleosis: Can it recur?
  111. Mononucleosis and Epstein-Barr: What's the connection?
  112. Multiple sclerosis
  113. Infographic: Multiple Sclerosis
  114. Multiple sclerosis: Can it cause seizures?
  115. What is multiple sclerosis? An expert explains
  116. Multiple sclerosis FAQs
  117. Myasthenia gravis
  118. Myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein antibody-associated disease (MOGAD)
  119. Nasal Cleaning
  120. Neck pain
  121. Nephrotic syndrome
  122. Neuromyelitis optica
  123. New Test for Preeclampsia
  124. What is ulcerative colitis? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  125. Occipital nerve stimulation: Effective migraine treatment?
  126. Ocular migraine: When to seek help
  127. Oral lichen planus
  128. Ozone air purifiers
  129. Paraneoplastic syndromes of the nervous system
  130. Pericarditis
  131. Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
  132. Pink eye: How long is it contagious?
  133. Plantar fasciitis
  134. Pneumonitis
  135. Polymyalgia rheumatica
  136. Polymyositis
  137. Prednisone risks, benefits
  138. Preeclampsia
  139. Preterm labor
  140. Protect your joints while housecleaning
  141. Ramsay Hunt syndrome
  142. Rethinking Rheumatoid Arthritis
  143. Rheumatoid arthritis
  144. Rheumatoid arthritis
  145. Rheumatoid arthritis: Does pregnancy affect symptoms?
  146. Rheumatoid arthritis and exercise
  147. Rheumatoid arthritis: Can it affect the eyes?
  148. Rheumatoid arthritis: Can it affect the lungs?
  149. Sacroiliitis
  150. Salt craving: A symptom of Addison's disease?
  151. Sarcoidosis
  152. Sciatica
  153. Sepsis
  154. Sheehan's syndrome
  155. Sinus infection and toothache: Any connection?
  156. Spinal stenosis
  157. Staying active with Crohn's disease
  158. Sulfa allergy
  159. Sun damage
  160. Sunburn
  161. Swollen knee
  162. Takayasu's arteritis
  163. Tendinitis
  164. Tendinitis pain: Should I apply ice or heat?
  165. Thrombocytopenia
  166. Thumb arthritis
  167. Thumb Reconstruction
  168. Tips for easing stress when you have Crohn's disease
  169. Tips to make your mornings easier
  170. Trichinosis
  171. Ulcerative colitis
  172. Ulcerative colitis flare-ups: 5 tips to manage them
  173. Understanding complement 3 glomerulopathy (C3G)
  174. Asthma attack video
  175. Carpal tunnel symptoms: Role of nonsurgical treatment
  176. Carpal tunnel syndrome surgery: Immediate and long-term results
  177. Dry powder disk inhaler
  178. Dry powder tube inhaler
  179. Video: How to use a peak flow meter
  180. Single-dose dry powder inhaler
  181. Using a metered dose asthma inhaler and spacer
  182. Vitamin D and MS: Any connection?
  183. Vitamins for MS: Do supplements make a difference?
  184. Vocal cord dysfunction
  185. What is aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD)?
  186. Where can I learn more about living with Crohn's disease?
  187. Whipple's disease