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Cortisone & Fatty Liver Disease

By Adam Cloe Ph.D./M.D. ; Updated August 14, 2017

Cortisone is a medication that replicates the effects of some hormones in your body known as corticosteroids. Your levels of these hormones affect your tissues in many ways. Too much cortisone may contribute to a condition known as “metabolic syndrome,” a problem that can cause fat to accumulate in your liver, among other effects.

What is Cortisone?

Cortisone is a synthetic corticosteroid hormone that resembles the naturally produced hormone cortisol. Cortisol has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, so your doctor may prescribe cortisone if you have health problems that are a result of too much inflammation, such as arthritis lupus, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis and some autoimmune conditions. Cortisone can also weaken your immune system, cause your skin to become thin and fragile and can also lead to a condition known as Cushing syndrome, which is a result of elevated corticosteroid levels.

Fatty Liver

Fatty liver disease, also known as steatohepatitis, is a health problem caused by fat accumulating in your liver. Although many cases of fatty liver disease are caused by alcohol consumption, you can also develop a fatty liver in the absence of excessive alcohol consumption. Although fatty liver itself does not usually cause any symptoms, it can cause inflammation of your liver, ultimately resulting in permanent liver damage and scarring.

Cortisone and Fatty Liver

Consuming cortisone, particularly if you are taking high doses, can result in the development of fatty liver disease. High levels of cortisol can disrupt your body’s metabolic pathways and result in fat becoming deposited in the liver. Elevated cortisol levels can also lead to high levels of triglycerides in the blood and may also make the body resistant to insulin, further disrupting the body’s metabolism; this is also known as metabolic syndrome. Because cortisone affects the body in the same ways as endogenously produced cortisol, taking cortisone can potentially lead to fatty liver disease.

Prevention

Taking cortisone is a mainstay of the treatments for many diseases, despite its potentially serious side effects. If you must take cortisone or other synthetic corticosteroids to manage a health problem and are concerned about side effects, talk to your doctor about trying a lower dose. You can also reduce your risk of side effects by using shorter-acting corticosteroids or by avoiding taking corticosteroids orally, because ingesting corticosteroids causes an increase in their levels throughout the body, which is associated with a greater risk of side effects.

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