Hydrocortisone Replacement Patient Information

steroids
Patient Information

What is Hydrocortisone?
Hydrocortisone is a steriod hormone produced by the adrenal gland.  It regulates many of the bodies functions and is essential for life.
Hydrocortisone is taken as a replacement for the natural hormone where this is deficient, either because of pituitary deficieny of ACTH (the hormone that stimulates the production of hydrocortisone by the adrenal gland) or failure of hydrocortisone production by the adrenal gland.

How do I take it?
A common dose is 15-20mg orally split over two or three times daily, and depending on your individual Endocrinologist’s recommendations, e.g., 10mg before rising, 5mg at mid-day and 5mg at 4 p.m.

When would I need to take more hydrocortisone?

If you become ill then the body would naturally increase the output of steroid from your adrenals.  Therefore if you are taking replacement steroid (hydrocortisone) it is essential to mimic the natural response by increasing your dose appropriately.

How can I let others know I take replacement hydrocortisone?
When you are prescribed your medication you will be given a ‘blue steroid card’ from the hospital to carry.  You should also purchase and wear a medical necklace or bracelet, such as MedicAlert, to show your Cortisol replacement therapy.

Emergency Injections – should I have these at home?
It is advisable for all patients on hydrocortisone replacement to have a 100mg injection pack at home and for them or their partners to be taught how to administer it.  If you don’t have one of these already, you can ask your GP or endocrinologist if they will prescribe this for you.  Please check regularly that these preparations are not expired.  Some endocrine clinics will help to show you how to inject in an emergency.

When do I know that I would need an emergency injection?

If you cannot absorb your tablets, or your usual replacement wasn’t sufficient for an acute shock or illness, then gradually or perhaps quite quickly you would feel weak, sickly and light-headed.

Recommendations for changes in oral dose ‘The Sick Rules’
If you become unwell you should take additional hydrocortisone. The amount depends on how unwell you are and the type of illness. The pituitary foundation provides some sensible examples:

If a patient is unwell they should take additional hydrocortisone. The amount depends on how unwell they are and the type of illness. Some examples:

Situtation  Increase in dose Duration  Emergency?
Cold without fever   none
Fever, flu, infection         double dose duration of illness see GP after 48 hours
Vomiting > once, diarrhoea and severe illness Emergency 100mg injection if extra dose of 10-20mg cannot be kept down restart usual dose once stable Phone GP or go to A&E. Administer injection prior to this if emergency pack available (but still seek help)
Minor surgical procedure e.g. tooth extraction     20mg hydrocortisone before procedure resume on usual dose immediately afterward
Minor operation e.g. hernia repair  100mg im every 6 hours for 24 hours  resume on usual dose immediately afterward
Major operation e.g. abdomen or chest 100mg im injection every 6 hours for 24 -72 hours and eating and drinking reduce rapidly to usual dose tell the surgeon and anaesthetist before the operation
Endoscopy Double the dose the day before during bowel prep. For colonoscopy 100mg im before procedure take usual dose on the morning of the procedure drink lots of water to prevent dehydration. Inform your doctor.
Cystoscopy Double dose on the day of procedure. resume as normal inform your doctor.
Severe shock e.g. bereavment or road traffic accident 20mg as tablet or 100mg intramuscular injection See GP or hospital for further advice Sudden and severe shock may be classed as an emergency – seek advice
Long haul flight > 12 hours double dose on the day of the flight extra dose every 6-8 hours when the day is legnthened. Usual regimen in timing with sleep / wake cycle when day is shortened. Speak to your consultant before travel.
General stress, exams etc  not usually required ask GP if concerned

How do I cope if I’m travelling away from home?

You should travel with a 100mg injection kit  in case of emergency.  This injection should be placed in a small cool bag, labelled with your name and kept with you at all times during your journey. You should ask your GP or endocrinologist for a letter about your injection kit, medication and your doses prescribed.  This letter is essential to travel through security checks and will be helpful should you become unwell and have to see a doctor. It is wise to take an extra two weeks supply of hydrocortisone tablets with you in case you need to increase your usual dose whilst away.  All medication should be kept in your hand luggage.

Printable patient information

From http://www.imperialendo.com/for-doctors/hydrocortisone-replacement/hydrocortisone-replacement-patient-information

“My feet are killing me!” An unusual presentation of Cushing’s syndrome

Adverse effects of steroid excess on bone metabolism are well established but presentation of Cushing’s syndrome with metabolic bone disease is reported to be uncommon. We describe a case of Cushing’s syndrome presenting with pathological fractures probably present for 8 years before diagnosis.

A 33 year old nurse first sustained spontaneous stress fractures of her metatarsals in 1994, with repeated fractures occurring up to 2002. In 2001 she developed hypertension, acute lumbar back pain and gained weight.

In 2002 she was admitted to hospital with chest/back pain. Lumbar spine X-ray showed new fracture of L3,old fractures of L4/5,with fractured ribs on CXR. Isotope bone scan revealed multiple hot spots. MRI showed collapse of T8 with features consistent with malignant disease. The primary malignancy was sought and a left-sided 1.5 centimetre thyroid nodule detected.

Suspicious cytology prompted thyroid lobectomy revealing follicular variant of papillary carcinoma. T8 biopsy revealed chronic infection with Propionobacteria rather than metastatic carcinoma. Despite antibiotic therapy further spontaneous vertebral fractures developed. Bone densitometry revealed Z scores of minus 2.4 at L2-4, minus 2.5 and 2.9 at the hips.

Referral to our centre prompted investigations for Cushing’s syndrome. Serum potassium was 4.1 millimols per litre, androgens, calcitonin and urinary catecholamines all normal. TSH was suppressed by T4 therapy. Urinary free cortisol values were raised,(563-959 nanomols per 24hours) with loss of diurnal rhythm in cortisol secretion (9am 429-586,midnight 397-431 nanomols per litre)and no suppression on low or high dose dexamethasone. Abdominal CT showed a 3.5 centimetre adrenal mass. These findings were consistent with adrenal dependent Cushing’s syndrome. Risedronate and metyrapone were commenced before adrenalectomy, completion thyroidectomy and ablative radioiodine.
Comment: Cushing’s syndrome may present with spontaneous fractures in both axial and appendicular skeleton in the absence of marked clinical features. This case demonstrates the importance of thorough investigation of unexplained fractures.

LM Albon, JD Rippin & JA Franklyn

From http://www.endocrine-abstracts.org/ea/0005/ea0005p26.htm

Enzyme that triggers muscle wasting could be key to REVERSING signs of ageing | Daily Mail Online

Drawing on expertise from both the University of Birmingham and Queen Elizabeth Hospitals Birmingham, they applied their knowledge of Cushing’s syndrome to the new problem (sarcopenia).

Cushing’s is hormonal disorder caused by high levels of cortisol. Patients suffer from the syndrome see marked changes in their body composition.

The effects can be devastating for patients who can develop features such as muscle wasting and weakness, weight gain, thinning of the bones, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Dr Hassan-Smith said: ‘Looking at this particular enzyme seemed like an intriguing way forward.

‘We knew how it works in relation to Cushing’s Syndrome, which is characterised by similar symptoms, and thought it would be worthwhile applying what we knew to the ageing population.’

Currently there are no treatments for sarcopenia, the team explained.

But pharmaceutical companies are developing and testing ways to block or switch off the enzyme, with a focus on treatments for conditions including diabetes.

The team is excited about taking the results of their study forward into future research, with one eye on adapting the inhibitors already in development to combat muscle ageing.

Dr Hassan Smith added: ‘The next stage is a “proof of concept” study to look at the effects of these inhibitive pharmaceuticals on muscle function, before opening it up into a clinical trial.

‘It’s an as yet unexplored area that could yield beneficial results for a problem that is becoming more prevalent as our lifespans increase.’

The study was published in the journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

 

via Enzyme that triggers muscle wasting could be key to REVERSING signs of ageing | Daily Mail Online.

Myth: “Each Person Requires the Same Dose of Steroid in Order to Survive…

Myth: “Each person requires the same dose of steroid in order to survive with Secondary or Primary Adrenal Insufficiency”

myth-busted

Fact: In simple terms, Adrenal Insufficiency occurs when the body does not have enough cortisol in it. You see, cortisol is life sustaining and we actually do need cortisol to survive. You have probably seen the commercials about “getting rid of extra belly fat” by lowering your cortisol. These advertisements make it hard for people to actually understand the importance of the function of cortisol.

After a Cushing’s patient has surgery, he/she goes from having very high levels of cortisol to no cortisol at all. For pituitary patients, the pituitary, in theory, should start working eventually again and cause the adrenal glands to produce enough cortisol. However, in many cases; the pituitary gland does not resume normal functioning and leaves a person adrenally insufficient. The first year after pit surgery is spent trying to get that hormone to regulate on its own normally again. For a patient who has had a Bilateral Adrenalectomy (BLA), where both adrenal glands are removed as a last resort to “cure” Cushing’s; his/her body will not produce cortisol at all for his/her life. This causes Primary Adrenal Insufficiency.

All Cushing’s patients spend time after surgery adjusting medications and weaning slowly from steroid (cortisol) to get the body to a maintenance dose, which is the dose that a “normal” body produces. This process can be a very long one. Once on maintenance, a patient’s job is not over. He/She has to learn what situations require even more cortisol. You see, cortisol is the stress hormone and also known as the Fight or Flight hormone. Its function is to help a person respond effectively to stress and cortisol helps the body compensate for both physical and emotional stress. So, when faced with a stressor, the body will produce 10X the baseline levels in order to compensate. When a person can not produce adequate amounts of cortisol to compensate, we call that Adrenal Insufficiency. If it gets to the point of an “Adrenal Crisis”, this means that the body can no longer deal and will go into shock unless introduced to extremely high levels of cortisol, usually administered through an emergency shot of steroid.

There are ways to help prevent a crisis, by taking more steroid than the maintenance dose during times of stress. This can be anything from going to a family function (good stress counts too) to fighting an infection or illness. Acute stressors such as getting into a car accident or sometimes even having a really bad fight require more cortisol as well.

It was once believed that everyone responded to every stressor in the exact same way. So, there are general guidelines about how much more cortisol to introduce to the body during certain stressors. For instance, during infection, a patient should take 2-3X the maintenance dose of steroid (cortisol). Also, even the maintenance dose was considered the same for everyone. Now a days, most doctors will say that 20 mg of Hydrocortisone (Steroid/Cortisol) is the appropriate maintenance dose for EVERYONE. Now, we know that neither is necessarily true. Although the required maintenance dose is about the same for everyone; some patients require less and some require more. I have friends who will go into an adrenal crisis if they take LESS than 30 mg of daily steroid. On the other hand, 30 mg may be way too much for some and those folks may even require LESS daily steroid, like 15 mg. Also, I want to stress (no pun intended) that different stressors affect different people differently. For some, for instance, an acute scare may not affect them. However, for others, receiving bad news or being in shock WILL put their bodies into crisis. That person must then figure out how much additional steroid is needed.

Each situation is different and each time may be different. Depending on the stressor, a person may need just a little more cortisol or a lot. Every person must, therefore, learn their own bodies when dealing with Adrenal Insufficiency. This is VERY important! I learned this the hard way. As a Clinical Psychologist; I assumed that my “coping skills” would be enough to prevent a stressor from putting me into crisis. That was FAR from the truth! I have learned that I can not necessarily prevent my body’s physiological response to stress. People often ask me, “BUT you are a psychologist! Shouldn’t you be able to deal with stress?!!!!” What they don’t realize is that my BODY is the one that has to do the job of compensating. Since my body can not produce cortisol at all, my job is to pay close attention to it so that I can take enough steroid to respond to any given situation. We all have to do that. We all have to learn our own bodies. This is vitally important and will save our lives!

To those we have lost in our community to Adrenal Insufficiency after treatment of Cushing’s, Rest in Peace my friends! Your legacies live on forever!

~ By Karen Ternier Thames

Myth: YOU are the problem and the reason for your cortisol levels…

Myth: YOU are the problem and the reason for your cortisol levels. Having issues with too much or too little cortisol, the stress hormone, means that YOU are stressing too much or are too anxious. “YOU could control your levels if you would JUST calm down!”
myth-busted
Fact: YOU are NOT the problem! The dysfunction in your body is the problem. It is true that cortisol is your stress hormone or fight or flight hormone. This hormone helps your body compensate for and deal with trauma or stress, both physical and emotional. So, yes, your body does have a reaction to stress.
However, for people with Cushing’s, that hormone goes haywire. Too much cortisol leads to Cushing’s symptoms and having too little cortisol leads to Adrenal Insufficiency. Normally, our bodies’ response to stress is to pump out 10X the amount of your baseline cortisol to cope. If it is not able to do this, it will go into shock and can lead to death unless the emergency protocol is followed with an emergency injection of steroid. No amount of coping skills can “control” one’s physiological response to stress.
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