If you have pulmonary fibrosis, your doctor may recommend various treatments to help manage symptoms and improve the quality of your life. These usually include prescriptions for FDA-approved pharmaceutical drugs if your doctor decides that one or more may be suitable for your condition. One common treatment is Prednisone, which is typically prescribed during an infection, acute exacerbation, or to address a flare in symptoms such as coughing and breathing problems.

In fact, steroids like Prednisone are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs. They are mainly used to treat autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. Though Prednisone provides relief almost immediately, long term steroid use can have several side effects. Some of these side effects may be particularly relevant for people with PF. To learn more about natural therapies for reducing inflammation, click here. To learn more about side effects and what you can do, please read the table below. 



Here are some suggestions for what to watch out for and what you can do to counteract these effects and protect yourself:

Side Effects

What you can do

Osteoporosis or loss of bone density which increases the risk of fractures. Some patients can lose up to 10-20% of bone mass in the first 6 months of treatment


Doing weight bearing exercises such as light weights, bands, water aerobics or walking in the pool; regular bone density scans; prescription medication (bisphosphonates) for reducing bone loss, if required

Water retention – swelling in the face also known as “Moon face”, swelling in the abdomen and legs

Low salt diet; eating diuretic foods like apples and celery; sitting with feet raised; exercising

Reduced immunity – steroids weaken the immune system and can thus increase the risk of infection


Leading a healthy lifestyle; including immune boosting foods; supplementation with vitamins C, D, zinc; getting enough sleep; exercising

Diabetes/high blood sugar – this is particularly important to watch out for and monitor in people with diabetes

Eat more vegetables and whole grains; exercise; meditate to reduce stress; get sufficient rest

Glaucoma or cataracts – this can happen with both oral steroids and steroid eye drops due to steroid-induced hypertension in the eye


Watching out for symptoms such as blurred vision; making regular ophthalmologist (eye doctor) appointments and mentioning your history of steroid use; regular eye exams including measuring intra ocular pressure (IOP); reducing steroid dose, if possible or even starting on anti-glaucoma medication, if indicated

Muscle weakness – people can develop progressive weakness with inability to rise from low chairs, climb stairs, brush hair


Adequate nutrition with increase in protein intake; exercise to maintain muscle strength; talking to your doctor about reducing the steroid dose to the lowest effective level and possibly changing to an alternate-day regimen.

Stomach upset – particularly when taken on an empty stomach


Take the medicine with food

Mood changes and depression


Mindfulness meditations; spending time with friends and family; doing activities that bring you joy; lowering the dose, if required; using essential oils

Do you think you may be experiencing side effects from Prednisone or other corticosteroids? Since May is mental health awareness month, later this month we’ll be further exploring ways to support people with PF who are struggling with mood changes, depression, or other mental health concerns. In addition to providing educational information about mental health, we’ll talk about natural therapies and alternative ways to reduce inflammation. To learn more, please follow our Facebook page. To receive support, please join our community forum and sign up for this month’s two support group meetups.


Stay In Touch

PF Now! hosts a virtual support group on Zoom every month. Not only will you strengthen your network of connections but you’ll learn firsthand how those with PF best look after themselves. PF Now! also has a Facebook group whose active community shares their PF journey and their tips with others. New to online support groups? Download our free step-by-step guide for online advocacy here.

Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information received from us

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