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Dexamethasone Injection

pronounced as (dex a meth' a sone)

Why is this medication prescribed?

Dexamethasone injection is used to treat severe allergic reactions. It is used in the management of certain types of edema (fluid retention and swelling; excess fluid held in body tissues,) gastrointestinal disease, and certain types of arthritis. Dexamethasone injection is also used for diagnostic testing. Dexamethasone injection is also used to treat certain conditions that affect the blood, skin, eyes, thyroid, kidneys, lungs, and nervous system. It is sometimes used in combination with other medications to treat symptoms of low corticosteroid levels (lack of certain substances that are usually produced by the body and are needed for normal body functioning) and in the management of certain types of shock. Dexamethasone injection is in a class of medications called corticosteroids. It works to treat people with low levels of corticosteroids by replacing steroids that are normally produced naturally by the body. It also works to treat other conditions by reducing swelling and redness and by changing the way the immune system works.

How should this medicine be used?

Dexamethasone injection comes as powder to be mixed with liquid to be injected intramuscularly (into a muscle) or intravenously (into a vein). Your personal dosing schedule will depend on your condition and on how you respond to treatment.

You may receive dexamethasone injection in a hospital or medical facility, or you may be given the medication to use at home. If you will be using dexamethasone injection at home, your healthcare provider will show you how to inject the medication. Be sure that you understand these directions, and ask your healthcare provider if you have any questions. Ask your healthcare provider what to do if you have any problems using dexamethasone injection.

Your doctor may change your dose of dexamethasone injection during your treatment to be sure that you are always using the lowest dose that works for you. Your doctor may also need to change your dose if you experience unusual stress on your body such as surgery, illness, or infection. Tell your doctor if your symptoms improve or get worse or if you get sick or have any changes in your health during your treatment.

Other uses for this medicine

Dexamethasone injection is also sometimes used to treat nausea and vomiting from certain types of chemotherapy for cancer and to prevent organ transplant rejection. Talk to your doctor about the risks of using this medication for your condition.

This medication may be prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

What special precautions should I follow?

Before receiving dexamethasone injection,

  • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to dexamethasone, any other medications, benzyl alcohol, or any of the ingredients in dexamethasone injection. Ask your pharmacist for a list of the ingredients.
  • tell your doctor and pharmacist what other prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention any of the following: amphotericin B (Abelcet, Ambisome, Amphotec); anticoagulants ('blood thinners') such as warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven); aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) and selective COX-2 inhibitors such as celecoxib (Celebrex); medications for diabetes including insulin; diuretics ('water pills'); ephedrine; phenobarbital; phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek); and rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane, in Rifamate, in Rifater). Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
  • tell your doctor if you have a fungal infection (other than on your skin or nails). Your doctor will probably tell you not to use dexamethasone injection.
  • tell your doctor if you have or have ever had tuberculosis (TB: a type of lung infection); cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye); glaucoma (an eye disease); high blood pressure; a recent heart attack; emotional problems, depression or other types of mental illness; myasthenia gravis (a condition in which the muscles become weak); osteoporosis (condition in which the bones become weak and fragile and can break easily); malaria (a serious infection that is spread by mosquitoes in certain parts of the world and can cause death); ulcers; or liver, kidney, heart, intestinal, or thyroid disease. Also tell your doctor if you have any type of untreated bacterial, parasitic, or viral infection anywhere in your body or a herpes eye infection (a type of infection that causes a sore on the eyelid or eye surface).
  • tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while receiving dexamethasone injection, call your doctor.
  • if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are receiving dexamethasone injection.
  • do not have any vaccinations (shots to prevent diseases) without talking to your doctor.
  • you should know that dexamethasone injection may decrease your ability to fight infection and may prevent you from developing symptoms if you get an infection. Stay away from people who are sick and wash your hands often while you are using this medication. Be sure to avoid people who have chicken pox or measles. Call your doctor immediately if you think you may have been around someone who had chicken pox or measles.

What special dietary instructions should I follow?

Your doctor may instruct you to follow a low-salt or a diet high in potassium or calcium. Your doctor may also prescribe or recommend a calcium or potassium supplement. Follow these directions carefully.

What side effects can this medication cause?

Dexamethasone injection may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • headache
  • slowed healing of cuts and bruises
  • thin, fragile, or dry skin
  • red or purple blotches or lines under the skin
  • skin depressions at the injection site
  • increased body fat or movement to different areas of your body
  • inappropriate happiness
  • difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • extreme changes in mood changes in personality
  • depression
  • increased sweating
  • muscle weakness
  • joint pain
  • irregular or absent menstrual periods
  • hiccups
  • increased appetite
  • injection site pain or redness

Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately or get emergency medical treatment:

  • sore throat, fever, chills, cough, or other signs of infection
  • seizures
  • vision problems
  • swelling of the eyes, face, lips, tongue, throat, arms, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • shortness of breath
  • sudden weight gain
  • rash
  • hives
  • itching

Dexamethasone injection may cause children to grow more slowly. Your child's doctor will watch your child's growth carefully while your child is using dexamethasone injection. Talk to your child's doctor about the risks of giving this medication to your child.

People who use dexamethasone injection for a long time may develop glaucoma or cataracts. Talk to your doctor about the risks of using dexamethasone injection and how often you should have your eyes examined during your treatment.

Dexamethasone injection may increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about the risks of using this medication.

Dexamethasone injection may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while using this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch) or by phone (1-800-332-1088).

What should I know about storage and disposal of this medication?

Your healthcare provider will tell you how to store your medication. Store your medication only as directed. Make sure you understand how to store your medication properly.

Unneeded medications should be disposed of in special ways to ensure that pets, children, and other people cannot consume them. However, you should not flush this medication down the toilet. Instead, the best way to dispose of your medication is through a medicine take-back program. Talk to your pharmacist or contact your local garbage/recycling department to learn about take-back programs in your community. See the FDA's Safe Disposal of Medicines website (http://goo.gl/c4Rm4p) for more information if you do not have access to a take-back program.

In case of emergency/overdose

In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.

What other information should I know?

Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor will order certain lab tests to check your body's response to dexamethasone injection.

If you are having any skin tests such as allergy tests or tuberculosis tests, tell the doctor or technician that you are receiving dexamethasone injection.

Before having any laboratory test, tell your doctor and the laboratory personnel that you are using dexamethasone injection.

Do not let anyone else use your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.

It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.

Brand names

  • Decadron

This branded product is no longer on the market. Generic alternatives may be available.

Last Revised - 05/15/2016