Dexamethasone (Decadron Generic): Forms, Doses, Effects

Dexamethasone is a synthetic glucocorticosteroid drug used to treat certain types of inflammatory conditions in which the body’s immune system reacts adversely. It can also be used to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs in conjunction with other immunosuppressive drugs. Dexamethasone comes in tablet form and can also be administered orally, by injection intravenously or intramuscularly, or topically through an ointment.

Dexamethasone can be given as:

  • Injection (IV);
  • Pill (oral);
  • Oral inhaler (a powder that you breathe in through your mouth);
  • Topical cream;
  • Eye drops;
  • Nasal spray;
  • Rectal suppository.

Dexamethasone is often used in combination with other medications. It can be taken with antibiotics or to alleviate the symptoms of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcerative colitis.

Dexamethasone is a very potent medication with numerous side effects. It is not safe for everyone to take this steroid. Doctors usually prescribe it when other treatments do not work.

Forms and Doses of Dexamethasone (Decadron)

There are three different types of dexamethasone: tablets, injections, and solutions. While all three forms contain the same drug, they have slightly different uses and actions of dexamethasone.

Dexamethasone tablets are used to treat certain conditions and allergies. Injections are taken to ease inflammation in the body. Solutions are oily substances used for several purposes, including intravenous infusions, topical administration, and inhalation.


Dexamethasone tablets are taken by mouth to treat inflammatory conditions or allergic reactions to drugs or insect bites and stings. The tablets usually come in doses ranging from 0.25 mg to 8 mg. They can also be given by intravenous injection (IV) at higher doses (doses over 8 mg).


Injections of dexamethasone are used to treat difficult-to-control inflammatory conditions like autoimmune diseases. They usually come in 25 mg doses and can be given every 3–12 hours (for best results). They can be taken by mouth as well.


Dexamethasone is also available in short-acting (SA) oral solutions or nasal sprays. Dexamethasone is delivered through the nasal passage by a specific kind of spray. The dexamethasone solution is administered through a special applicator that looks like a “Butterfly IV” drip setup, which provides a dose of 3 drops with each application.

A Bit of Science

Dexamethasone has recently been found to have strong anti-inflammatory effects not only in acute but also in chronic inflammatory diseases. A single large dose of dexamethasone (38 mg a day) for 3 or 7 days in patients with rheumatoid arthritis could reduce joint swelling as effectively as other corticosteroid or disease-modifying drugs

But the long-term effect of a high dose of dexamethasone on cartilage and bone density is still unknown. Besides that, the risk of developing osteoporosis is increased by a high dose of dexamethasone. It means that dexamethasone should be mostly avoided in patients over 50. Adverse effects include suppressed growth, increased appetite, skin changes, and liver function abnormalities.

Dexamethasone is known to have immunosuppressive effects similar to those of corticosteroids and TNF-alpha antagonists. It inhibits T-cell proliferation, which may explain why it’s used to treat asthma and inflammatory disease. However, its precise mechanisms are not fully understood.

Dexamethasone works by suppressing the immune system. It is often used in high doses in conjunction with other immunosuppressants, such as cyclophosphamide, to induce remission of lymphoma and multiple myeloma. Dexamethasone can also be used to treat necrotizing Fasciitis, a soft tissue infection of the skin types, which is a rare but potentially deadly infection.

Interesting Facts

Dexamethasone has a long and fascinating history. From the first time, it was synthesized in 1952. Then, it was introduced as a pill for asthma in 1964. Later, when it became an oral steroid in 1959, dexamethasone has been a staple of medicine for 60 years. It’s even been studied extensively to treat inflammatory bowel disease and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

How the First Dexamethasone was Made

The first real evidence of a need for a medication that would act as both an anti-inflammatory and as an immunosuppressant was demonstrated in dogs with naturally occurring allergic pulmonary edema. Steroids, such as prednisone, were able to treat these symptoms but did not provide long-term protection from further episodes of allergic airway edema. Something stronger was needed, so William Coley, MD, thought that the drug dexamethasone might be a good candidate.

The drug was first synthesized by Frank Bourns and Jack Lemmon in 1952 but initially, it was unsuccessful in treating allergies. Dr. Coley then asked Dr. Curtis Freeman and Dr. Alfred Gilman to try their hands at synthesizing the compound. They were successful in creating a new drug that they called dexamethasone acetate, to use as an immunosuppressive drug for the treatment of cancer.

The Effects of Dexamethasone on Rheumatoid Arthritis

In the 1960s, the University of Connecticut started a clinical trial with 10 individuals with rheumatoid arthritis to test whether or not taking dexamethasone would help to relieve their symptoms. All patients were given doses of 40 mg every 12 hours for 6 months, and all patients showed improvement in their symptoms.

However, in 1965, a study revealed that treating RA with dexamethasone could increase the risk for diabetes occurring in treated individuals and it was decided that the use of this drug to treat RA was too risky.

Dexamethasone Questions and Answers

What Is Dexamethasone?

Dexamethasone is a medicine that belongs to the class of drugs known as glucocorticoids. It is marketed under the brand name Decadron by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). It acts on several different organs in your body and reduces inflammation in these organs. Dexamethasone can be used as an alternative to prednisolone for patients who have been prescribed long-term corticosteroid therapy.

What Are the Main Actions of Dexamethasone?

Dexamethasone is used to treat inflammatory and allergic conditions. It is effective against a wide range of medical conditions involving inflammation caused by substances or injury. Dexamethasone works by down-regulating the immune system so that there is less inflammation in your body. The result is relief from symptoms such as pain, swelling, and redness. It also helps to recover faster from an illness or injury because your body isn’t trying to fight off an infection as vigorously.

How Does Dexamethasone Work?

Dexamethasone works by inhibiting certain enzymes called glucocorticoid hydrolases. These enzymes are found in white blood cells, which help the body fight infection. The suppression of these enzymes results in less inflammation, and consequently less pain and swelling.

How Quickly Do the Effects of Dexamethasone Occur?

The effects of the drug start to become apparent within a few days after taking it and are noticeable within just a few weeks of treatment.

Is Dexamethasone Safe?

You must take the correct dose of dexamethasone as prescribed by your doctor. You shouldn’t take more than the recommended dose unless told to by your doctor. The drug isn’t suitable for use when pregnant and should be used with caution in children.

How Fast Does Dexamethasone Affect the Body?

The drug starts to work within three weeks of taking it and remains effective for as many as 12 weeks. The drug is widely used for any type of inflammation that occurs as a result of injury to soft tissue, allergies, or other causes. It is also used in the treatment of inflammation in people with autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease or rheumatoid arthritis.

Is Dexamethasone a Steroid?

Dexamethasone is not a steroid but has a similar effect. It acts on specific areas in the body and disrupts the actions of certain enzymes that are responsible for breaking down the tissues. The drug is therefore a glucocorticoid, meaning it works by inhibiting certain enzymes that help your body to break down its tissues. These enzymes are found in white blood cells, which help your body to fight infection.

Inhibition of these enzymes results in less inflammation and consequently less pain and swelling. Dexamethasone also helps to down-regulate certain anti-inflammatory proteins that are released from immune cells. This is done so that immune cells don’t send signals to the brain and cause excessive inflammation after an injury or infection.

When Is Dexamethasone Prescribed?

Dexamethasone is generally used as a one-off treatment for a short time, often up to six weeks, followed by maintenance treatment with other medicines for longer periods. For example, if you are prescribed dexamethasone for ulcerative colitis, your doctor will usually prescribe a maintenance medication such as sulfasalazine over the long term. If your doctor has prescribed you dexamethasone tablets, they will usually be taken orally, although they can be given by injection if necessary.

What Are the Side-Effects Of Dexamethasone?

Some people experience allergy-like side effects such as hives and swelling. Other possible side-effects include tiredness, headache, flu-like symptoms, and difficulty sleeping. Serious side effects are rare but may include allergic reactions, lowered immunity, and adrenal gland suppression.

Does Dexamethasone Cause Weight Gain?

The drug is used to treat inflammation in many different organs throughout the body so there is no immediate weight gain as a direct result of treatment. However, if you are taking the tablets for long periods you may experience weight gain over time due to gaining muscle mass.