Author Topic: The difference between steroids, immunosuppressants, and anti-histamines  (Read 11574 times)

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Offline AEC

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The difference between steroids, immunosuppressants, and anti-histamines
« on: Wednesday August 05, 2009, 11:36:05 PM »
I don't know whether this is the right place to post this or not, but I have a question.

What is the difference between steroids, immunosuppressants and anti-histamines?

What are the side-effects of anti-histamines if taken in a long run (and probably, extensively)?
My Eczema Summary:
My Eczema triggered 1 year after coming back to Malaysia in 2007, after studying in Australia.

Affected locations are my cheeks, forehead, behind and in front of my ears, neck (front and sides), behind my knees, between my elbows, and possibly on my scalp.

Offline Bamawing

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Re: The difference between steroids, immunosuppressants, and anti-histamines
« Reply #1 on: Thursday October 08, 2009, 07:59:20 AM »
Wow. I opened this hoping I could give you some sort of answer, but I'm really in the dark. That's a great question... please let us know when you find the answer!
I'm more confused than a mood ring on a paranoid bipolar schizophrenic chameleon in a bag of skittles!

Offline LIGA girl

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Re: The difference between steroids, immunosuppressants, and anti-histamines
« Reply #2 on: Friday October 09, 2009, 04:46:14 AM »
Hi AEC

I am taking all these 3 types of drugs and have been for a number of years now (a bit over 3 years). Steroids are the most dangerous, then immunosuppressants, then antihistamines. the antihistamine I am taking is phenergan and it is not addictive (I recently did not take them for a few weeks and had no bad effects), but it only treats the symptoms not the illness, the others actually take away the illness but of course it can return when you stop taking those drugs. I wouldnt say I had any side effects from the antihistamines either, but when taking them in combo it can be hard to tell.....

Cheers
LG

Offline itchychick

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Re: The difference between steroids, immunosuppressants, and anti-histamines
« Reply #3 on: Friday October 09, 2009, 10:06:34 PM »
I'm not sure if you actually know this information, but to fill in a few more details from LIGA's answer:  Steriods act quickly to reduce inflammation.  They can be taken orally, sprayed nasally, or applied topically.  Side effects are bone thinning (when taken orally over a long period of time), weight gain (same), and when applied topically, they can cause skin thining, although I think you'd have to put an awful lot on for this to happen (I've been using a very strong topical steroid for years, and this hasn't happened to me).
Inflammation can cause pain, itching, and eventual joint deterioration, so reducing that inflammation is a very important step in the treatment of all sorts of diseases.... skin diseases, asthma, allergies, autoimmune...

Antihistamines block the production of histamines.  Histamines are released in the body by things that we are allergic to or have sensitivities to.  Histamines trigger inflammation (and related to this inflammation, itch and hives).  They also have a role in the immune system, but here my own knowledge falls short.  The reason antihistamines are prescribed for people with allergies or itchy responses is to try and prevent the histamine release which causes a flare up or allergic response.

Finally, immunosuppressants are stronger drugs which suppress the immune system, and stop the body from attacking "invaders" (whether they be allergens, or in the case of autoimmune disease, the body itself).  The difference (I think) between immunosuppressants and antihistamines, is that antihistamines are targeted to one type of immune response (histmines), whereas immunosuppressants target many more elements of the immune response.  One of the dangers of immunosuppressants is that the body is much more vulnerable to contracting illnesses from the environment (like flus, colds, etc), and less able to fight them off.

Hope that helps a little.



Offline LIGA girl

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Re: The difference between steroids, immunosuppressants, and anti-histamines
« Reply #4 on: Saturday October 10, 2009, 12:08:20 AM »
Hi again AEC

one other thing you might need to know when deciding which type of treatment you take is that when you take steroids and immunosuppressants you have to have regular blood tests to monitor the side effects and/or reactions you might have. Not everyone has all the side effects and it can depend on the dose and the length of time which side effects you get, as well as personal differences of course.

Cheers
LG

Offline Bamawing

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Re: The difference between steroids, immunosuppressants, and anti-histamines
« Reply #5 on: Saturday October 10, 2009, 08:31:02 AM »
...or maybe someone else on here could tell you...

Thanks, Itchy and Liga!!
I'm more confused than a mood ring on a paranoid bipolar schizophrenic chameleon in a bag of skittles!

Offline AEC

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Re: The difference between steroids, immunosuppressants, and anti-histamines
« Reply #6 on: Wednesday November 04, 2009, 02:47:13 PM »
Thanks for the reply guys/girls!

Yes, I do apply a topical cream of hydrocortisone however I've been told that it's only 0.1% (in fact, it should be 0.001% but the dermatologist said that it's written as 0.1% because no patient would believe 0.001% would be effective. I'm not taking his word on this truthfully though as it does sound unreasonable). Unfortunately, I've been applying it extensively on my eczema affected areas (face and neck) for the past 2+ months. I've been applying it twice a day, one in the morning and once at night and I try to cover the whole affected area, which is quite large. I know this isn't good, but I just can't help it! This week has been a bad week for me as my eczema triggered extensively again.

Nevertheless, that is besides the point of this thread :D. I posted here because I want to share with you what I have found out recently on anti-histamines. Apparently anti-histamines have no major side effects (if any at all). However, pharmacist and my dermatologist told me that based on their past experiences, heavy continuous intake of anti-histamines causes your body to 'work around it'. This means that after awhile, you may have to consume more dosage (e.g. 2 tablets, higher concentration, etc) of anti-histamines.

If this trend continues, you will come to a point where your body will end up not reacting to the consumed anti-histamines at all. This is when the dermatologist would prescribe a different brand of anti-histamines, hoping your body would react to it. My dermatologist have informed me that he has a middle-aged patient who has been prescribed ALL the brands of anti-histamine found in the local market as the years go by since he kept developing an 'immunity' against the anti-histamines given. I've been told that the patient is now being fed by any new anti-histamine brands as soon as it hit the market.
My Eczema Summary:
My Eczema triggered 1 year after coming back to Malaysia in 2007, after studying in Australia.

Affected locations are my cheeks, forehead, behind and in front of my ears, neck (front and sides), behind my knees, between my elbows, and possibly on my scalp.

Offline itchychick

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Re: The difference between steroids, immunosuppressants, and anti-histamines
« Reply #7 on: Thursday November 05, 2009, 02:51:58 PM »
AEC, I truly wouldn't worry about the hydrocortisone.  It is truly very mild, and 2 months is not very long at all. Hydrocortisones are often prescribed for babies with eczema.   I've been using the very strongest topical steroids for about 10 years, and have not had any of those side effects.

As far as the anti-histamines, your pharmacist is right.  The other thing about them, is that not every "brand" or type works the same way, and finding the one which works best for you might require some experimentation.  Some of them make you feel very doped up, and others might not work as well for you as another. 

Good luck with your treatments! :)

Offline kamii

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Re: The difference between steroids, immunosuppressants, and anti-histamines
« Reply #8 on: Monday September 13, 2010, 08:14:27 AM »
I know this topic is old, but i just wanted to give my 2 cents.

Depending on where you apply a topical steroid, side effects might be seen in as soon as a few weeks.  It's really individual, but like itchychick said, some people can use them for years and not experience any drawbacks.  I personally found that if i used a potent steroid around my face too often, i would get bleaching, but this was after a few months of using it probably twice a day.

Steroids - used in low doses to reduce inflammation, high doses as an immunosuppressant; slow to act i.e. 2-3 days to kick in, then another few days for maximal effect, due to the nature of its action.

Immunosuppressants - reduce the immune systems response, useful in conditions where you want to dampen the immune systems response whether its to decrease allergies or prevent organ rejection.  Depending on which you are taking, risks will vary.

Antihistamines - generally used for allergies, pretty much only good as a preventative, but can also be used to try and prevent problems from getting worse once exposure to an allergen has occurred.  Taking them chronically most likely won't lead to any dangerous side effects, especially with the older ones which have been around a lot longer. 

At the end of the day, it's quality of life that matters.  If you experience some minor side effects but you get to make the most of everyday, then imo, it's worth it.