What is hydrocortisone?

Hydrocortisone It is the name given to the drug that contains the hormone cortisol. This medicine can be found in the market under the name of hydrocortisone or under different trademarks.

It is available for different routes of administration, as needed. There are preparations for oral administration, injection for intravenous application and ointment for the topical route.

It is indicated for the treatment of different diseases, such as adrenocortical insufficiency, adrenogenital syndrome, hypercalcemia, inflammation of the thyroid, rheumatoid arthritis, in asthma and in COPD. However, we will see it later in more detail.

Hydrocortisone was discovered as early as 1955 and It is included in a list that I believe the WHO (World Health Organization), in which the drugs that a health system You have to have at your disposal.

Main indications of hydrocortisone

Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid drug that is used for the relief of inflammatory processes. It can be found in tablets, injections or topical creams.

Hydrocortisone is classified as a corticosteroid drug, so it can be used in many situations. First, hydrocortisone relieves inflammatory processes, so It is given as an anti-inflammatory medication in the cases that are required.

It also has immunosuppressive effects. Because of that, It can be used in autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (to which its anti-inflammatory effect is added). In turn, it is administered in patients with asthma or other lung conditions.

Hydrocortisone may be indicated to treat or prevent allergic reactions. and for the treatment of different cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma or multiple myeloma.

On the other hand, It is used as steroid replacement therapy in conditions that present with an adrenal gland insufficiency, as the results of the studies show. This type of disease develops with a decrease in the necessary production of steroids.

Other indications of hydrocortisone are:

  • Stimulate appetite in cancer patients with serious problems of this type.
  • The ointment is used to treat allergic skin reactions, as well as to relieve symptoms of itching, redness and inflammation.
  • Prevention and treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with some anticancer therapy, such as chemotherapy.

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Mechanism of action: how does hydrocortisone exert the effect on the organism?

The effects triggered by hydrocortisone, as well as that of all endogenous corticosteroids secreted by the adrenal cortex, they are due to the enzymatic modifications that produce, not for a concrete action of the hormone.

Hydrocortisone has mineralcorticoid and glucocorticoid effects. The former alter the balance of liquids and electrolytes, which facilitates the reabsorption of sodium and hydrogen, as well as the excretion of potassium. Consequently, it is effective in edema and hypertension.

As for the glucocorticoid effects they are involved in other metabolic pathways such as:

  • Gluconeogenesis
  • Redistribution of fat.
  • Metabolism of proteins.
  • Calcium balance.

On the other hand, hydrocortisone also has anti-inflammatory effects, which are due to the ability it has to inhibit phospholipase A2, which is a molecule that belongs to the lipocortin family.

These substances modulate the synthesis of inflammatory mediators. Therefore, being inhibited, these molecules cannot be synthesized and the inflammatory condition is improved.

Finally, it should be mentioned that it also inhibits the release of the adrenocorticotropic hormone from the pituitary gland. This effect must be taken into account, since if administered at high doses and over a long period of time, the adrenal cortex can atrophy.

Adverse reactions of hydrocortisone

Hydrocortisone is not without contraindications and side effects. Therefore, it should be administered with caution, under the supervision of the doctor.

Hydrocortisone, like all medications on the market, It is not exempt from triggering a series of side effects. Adverse reactions are defined as all those expected events that occur undesirably and unintentionally with the treatment of a drug.

It's important to put attention on Not all people suffer from these reactions or do not manifest them in the same way. The effects vary from one patient to another. In addition, they are usually reversible and usually disappear on their own over time. As for the most common, that is, those with a prevalence greater than 30% are:

  • Increased appetite
  • Sickness.
  • Stomach ache.
  • Insomnia.
  • Fluid retention.

Discover also: Why do we suffer from fluid retention?


Hydrocortisone is the name cortisol receives when given as a medicine. It is used to treat many pathologies. In addition, you should always follow the doctor's recommendations, since Misuse of it can trigger unwanted health reactions.