Battling Steroid-Induced Moon Face
Last updated: June 2023
While scrolling through social media recently, I came across a headline condemning people for making fun of actress Ashley Judd. Intrigued, I clicked through to read more and found out that some folks were ridiculing her recent appearance, her face in particular. It turns out Miss Judd was experiencing something that many who battle a chronic illness, like multiple sclerosis, have gone through: the dreaded “Moon Face” side effect from the steroid prednisone. This increase in the size of a person’s face can happen for those who are battling a health issue with steroids.2
MS and prednisone
Multiple sclerosis and steroids go hand in hand. Steroids remain one of the primary ways to battle an exacerbation. It can be common for those with MS to have taken prednisone, either on its own or when tapering down from intravenous steroids. My own experience has been no different, I’ve taken a lot of it over the years.3
When battling an exacerbation (or relapse if you prefer that terminology), the most common (and effective) treatment I’ve undergone for shortening it has been five days of intravenous steroids (methylprednisolone, also known as Solu-Medrol), followed by a nearly month-long tapering period of prednisone. This tapering period involves starting with a high dose of prednisone and very slowly decreasing it over time. Not tapering slowly off steroids can produce some increased side effects.1
Steroids can produce some nasty side effects, one being weight gain (just one of the many ways that it’s easy for those with MS to increase in size). Some who have taken prednisone have noticed a pretty peculiar type of weight gain in their face. In addition to weight gain, prednisone can cause swelling in the face and neck. Your entire face becomes round (and resembles the moon, hence the term “moon face”). Eventually, after you’ve finished your course of steroids, your face can return to its normal shape. This can take time, though, and varies from person to person.2-4
While there are a lot of steroid side effects that can make you feel physically awful, having your appearance quickly and radically change can be extremely embarrassing. With steroids already making you feel emotional, having your face balloon up like the moon can make you extremely self-conscious. Someone pointing out the new moon-like properties of your face can feel absolutely devastating. This is a strange side effect that really allows people to kick you when you are down.
Even if no one else mentions it, simply looking in the mirror can be enough to make you feel pretty upset about life. Again, this condition hits when you’re already at a low point from battling whatever has happened because of your exacerbation plus the other side effects from steroids (again, one of which can be an increase in emotions).4
Getting through it
I haven't seen any great ways to completely get rid of this moon face condition, other than finishing out your course of steroids (and if you have some sort of trick that I’m unaware of, please hit up the comments!). It’s really a matter of trying to live with it, and to keep reminding yourself that your face will return to normal, eventually. Having a moon face because of steroids really is a mental struggle for a lot of people, one where you have to constantly remind yourself that it’s only temporary. Hopefully, by talking about this condition, by making people realize that it can happen, that it’s caused by medication (and not by unhealthy eating), we can normalize it and make it less embarrassing.
If you’ve had moon face from steroids (or even have it right now), share this and spread the word. It’s just a side effect from trying to make yourself well, a temporary scar from you battling your illness; it’s not your fault, and it will go away.
Thanks so much for reading and always feel free to share!
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