The adverse effects of corticosteroids in pediatric patients are similar to those in adults (see ADVERSE REACTIONS ). Like adults, pediatric patients should be carefully observed with frequent measurements of blood pressure, weight, height, intraocular pressure, and clinical evaluation for the presence of infection, psychosocial disturbances, thromboembolism, peptic ulcers, cataracts, and osteoporosis. Pediatric patients who are treated with corticosteroids by any route, including systemically administered corticosteroids, may experience a decrease in their growth velocity. This negative impact of corticosteroids on growth has been observed at low systemic doses and in the absence of laboratory evidence of HPA axis suppression (., cosyntropen stimulation and basal cortisol plasma levels). Growth velocity may therefore be a more sensitive indicator of systemic corticosteroid exposure in pediatric patients treated with corticosteroids should be monitored, and the potential growth effects of prolonged treatment should be weighed against clinical benefits obtained and the availability of treatment alternatives. In order to minimize the potential growth effects of corticosteroids, pediatric patients should be titrated to the lowest effective dose.
In addition to the mentioned side effects several others have been reported. In both males and females acne are frequently reported, as well as hypertrophy of sebaceous glands, increased tallow excretion, hair loss, and alopecia. There is some evidence that anabolic steroid abuse may affect the immune system, leading to a decreased effectiveness of the defense system. Steroid use decreases the glucose tolerance, while there is an increase in insulin resistance. These changes mimic Type II diabetes. These changes seem to be reversible after abstention from the drugs.
To reiterate, our current understanding of the adverse cardiovascular effects of anabolic steroids is based on rather limited information gathered from a small number of research studies. The available reports, though, certainly give a glimpse of unwanted cardiovascular effects that may occur, even if the causal mechanisms are not yet understood. Going forward, we are unlikely to have large-scale prospective studies to gather more information and additional retrospective studies are likely to have the methodologic pitfalls I mentioned above. Given our current understanding, athletes who choose to use anabolic steroids should be aware of the possibilities of high blood pressure, unfavorable lipid profile, structural changes in the heart, and even heart attack or SCD.