Dexamethasone - Use | Dose | Side Effects

This article was medically reviewed by M.Pharm, Marko Tanaskovic on August 12, 2018. To read more about an author, click here.

Dexamethasone is a drug that belongs to the family of medicines called hormones for systemic use, or more specifically to the group of glucocorticoids. It is known for its very strong anti-inflammatory effects (7 times stronger than prednisolone and 30 times stronger than hydrocortisone). Glucocorticoids are hormones which are normally produced in the adrenal cortex and are divided into natural (such as hydrocortisone and cortisol), and synthetic (such as dexamethasone).

How does Dexamethasone work?

Due that it acts as a hormone, Dexamethasone has a wide spectrum of activity:

  • Increase in metabolism of lipids, proteins and carbohydrates
  • Maintenance of homeostasis of water and electrolytes

When should Dexamethasone be used?

Dexamethasone is used for therapeutic purposes because of its anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties. It does not exhibit mineralocorticoid activity and can therefore be used in patients who have heart failure. Dexamethasone is used in the following conditions:

  • Treatment of adrenocortical insufficiency
  • Treatment of congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  • For the diagnosis of adrenal gland hyperfunction

Contraindications and precautions

Dexamethasone must not be used in the following conditions:

  • In patients with fungal infection
  • In patients who are allergic to this medicine

Dexamethasone should be used cautiously in the following situations:

  • In patients who have tuberculosis
  • In patients who have liver or kidney damage
  • In patients with heart disease
  • In patients with osteoporosis
  • In patients with stomach problems
  • In patients with Herpes virus infection
  • In patients with epilepsy
  • In patients who have psychiatric disorders

Dexamethasone, pregnancy and breastfeeding

Dexamethasone is potentially teratogen.1 It can affect the skeletogenesis in the embryo. Therefore, it should not be used during pregnancy unless your doctor recommended.

It should not be used during breastfeeding because of the potential adverse effects on infants.


Dexamethasone is found in the form of injections, eye drops, and tablets.

Dexamethasone eye drops are used to treat conjunctivitis and other inflammatory processes in the eye.

Dexamethasone tablets are administered at the initial dosage of 0.5-10 mg per day. The maintenance dose is 0.5-1.5 mg per day. Dexamethasone is taken once daily, usually in the morning.


Dexamethasone can interact with the following medications:

  • Drugs used to treat epilepsy, such as:
    • carbamazepine
    • phenytoin
    • phenobarbital
    These drugs speed up the rate of metabolism of the Dexamethasone and reduce its efficacy.
  • Blood thinners, such as:
    • warfarin
    • acenocoumarol
    • heparin
  • Diuretics, such as:
    • hydrochlorothiazide
    • furosemide
  • Drugs used to treat hypertension.
  • Drugs used to treat diabetes.
  • Antibiotics and anti-fungal drugs, such as:
    • erythromycin
    • clarithromycin
    • telithromycin
    • roxithromycin
    • ketoconazole
    • itraconazole
    These drugs slow down the rate of metabolism of the Dexamethasone and increase its concentration in the blood.

Side effects

Side effects of the Dexamethasone include:

  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased appetite
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Increase in blood sugar levels
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Increased susceptibility to infection
  • Reduction of bone density


  1. NCBI link

Information on this website are provided for educational purposes only and are not intended for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.

We and our partners use technology such as cookies on our site to personalise content and ads, provide social media features, and analyse our traffic. Click below to consent to the use of this technology across the web. You can change your mind and change your consent choices at anytime by returning to this site.