Methylprednisolone vs. Prednisone: What’s the Difference

Methylprednisolone is a corticosteroid that belongs to the group of steroid hormones called glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids are substances produced by your own immune system that control inflammation and fight off infection. They work by reducing the amount of white blood cells (leukocytes) in your body, so they reduce the number of infections you get. When you take too much of these steroids, it causes high fever, chills, muscle aches and other symptoms. If you have allergies or asthma, then taking them may cause severe breathing problems.

The main function of glucocorticoids is to regulate your immune system. If you don’t produce enough of them, you could develop an autoimmune disease such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus erythematosus (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), rheumatoid arthritis and others. Glucocorticoids also play a role in bone health because they decrease the production of osteoclasts, which break down old bones into their mineral components.

If you take high enough amounts of glucocorticoids over a long period of time, the bones can become weak and brittle.

Prednisone is a hydrocortisone-based medication that is used to treat a wide variety of conditions including allergic reactions, inflammatory diseases such as arthritis or ulcerative colitis, and certain cancers. It works by suppressing your immune system. It can also treat conditions caused by an overactive immune system like autoimmune diseases.

Methylprednisolone is a fast-acting steroid that is used to treat a number of medical conditions that range from skin diseases to arthritis. The drug is typically used as an injection or topical solution and can also be ingested as a pill. Methylprednisolone works by stopping the release of certain chemicals in your body that lead to inflammation, pain, and other symptoms of various illnesses.

Methylprednisolone vs prednisone: Which one is better?

Although both drugs treat similar conditions, they have a different set of instructions. For example, your doctor may prescribe methylprednisolone to treat a severe allergic reaction but later switch you to prednisone because it has a lower risk of side effects and can be taken long-term. In the case of an acute asthma attack, however, you would be treated with an inhaled form of the drug.

While both drugs do have their unique differences, they also share some qualities. For example, they both suppress your immune system and carry a risk of causing high blood pressure. In some rare cases, they may even cause certain types of cancer.

It is important that you discuss all the risks and benefits with your doctor before starting treatment.

Sources & references used in this article:

Cyclosporine, methotrexate, and prednisone compared with cyclosporine and prednisone for prophylaxis of acute graft-versus-host disease by NJ Chao, GM Schmidt, JC Niland… – … England Journal of …, 1993 – Mass Medical Soc

Tacrolimus (FK506) alone or in combination with methotrexate or methylprednisolone for the prevention of acute graft-versus-host disease after marrow … by RA Nash, R Etzioni, R Storb, T Furlong, T Gooley… – 1995 –

Increased risk of infection in marrow transplant patients receiving methylprednisolone for graft-versus-host disease prevention by HG Sayer, G Longton, R Bowden, M Pepe, R Storb – 1994 –

Methylprednisolone reduces postoperative nausea in total knee and hip arthroplasty by Y Miyagawa, M Ejiri, T Kuzuya, T Osada… – Journal of clinical …, 2010 – Wiley Online Library

Cyclophosphamide versus methylprednisolone for treating neuropsychiatric involvement in systemic lupus erythematosus by VFM Trevisani, AA Castro, JFN Neto… – Cochrane Database …, 2013 –

Randomized trial of high-dose methylprednisolone versus intravenous immunoglobulin for the treatment of acute idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura in children by KG Ancona, RI Parker, MP Atlas… – Journal of pediatric …, 2002 –

Oral and inhaled corticosteroids: differences in P-glycoprotein (ABCB1) mediated efflux by A Crowe, AM Tan – Toxicology and applied pharmacology, 2012 – Elsevier