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General Medical Questions
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Question : Should an 83-year-old female get cortisone (for bursitis)? Or can this influence memory?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Robert H. Shmerling, M.D. is associate physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. He has been a practicing rheumatologist for over 20 years at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He is an active teacher in the Internal Medicine Residency Program, serving as the Robinson Firm Chief. He is also a teacher in the Rheumatology Fellowship Program.

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January 03, 2012
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A:

Cortisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory medicine. You can take it in pill form, intravenously (by IV), or have it injected directly into the inflamed area.

Cortisone shot can ease inflammation in many conditions. Examples include:

  • Bursitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Gout
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Cortisone injections don’t always work. And pain relief may be temporary. But in many cases, pain relief is dramatic and immediate.

Memory loss is not a recognized side effect of a cortisone shot. But you should note other side effects, such as:

  • Thinning of the skin at or below the site of the injection
  • Tendon injury
  • Increased blood sugar ( with diabetes)
  • Infection
  • More pain for a short time

Serious problems are rare. But frequent injections could raise your risk for one.. Generally, doctors do not give frequent shots into any one part of the body. The usual number is 2 or 3 per year. And many doctors will only offer cortisone shots when other treatments (such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or physical therapy) have failed.

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