Tips for an Easier Round of Solu-Medrol
Last updated: March 2023
Living with relapsing MS can be challenging and unpredictable. Relapses can be extraordinarily disruptive. One treatment prescribed to help recovery from a relapse is a 3-day or 5-day round of intravenous corticosteroids known as Solu-Medrol (methylprednisolone), or IVSM for short.1
Solu-Medrol can help to relieve inflammation during an MS relapse.2 Since my first event of optic neuritis in 2000, I have undergone more than 7 rounds of IVSM to treat severe MS relapses. Sometimes I've found the negative effects of the treatment can seem almost worse than the relapse, but I’ve learned a few tricks to help avoid some common problems and to make the experience more tolerable.
1. Tiny veins, or a hard stick
Since I have small and hard-to-find veins, I drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated. My infusion nurse may use a heating pad to help “plump up” the veins so that it is easier to get an IV line started, especially since it will need to stay in place for several days. Be sure to protect your IV line by not getting it wet or dislodging it from your vein.
2. Metallic taste
Solu-Medrol can cause a really yucky, penny-like taste in the mouth.3 I recommend sucking on hard candies or mints during the infusion. Jolly Ranchers and LifeSaver Mints are quite effective. I have been told that drinking chocolate milk helps as well.
3. Avoid headache
Some patients may get a headache during or after the infusion.4 If you get a headache, you may consider asking the nurse to slow down the drip on following days. An infusion over 60 minutes is too fast for me, but 90 minutes helps to avoid a pounding headache later in the day.
4. Protect your stomach
Solu-Medrol can cause an upset stomach and heartburn. Rather than let this excess acid eat away at your stomach lining, other medicines (such as Zantac) can be helpful.5,6
5. The cookie monster
Steroids can make you hungry!! Be careful what you eat. Corticosteroids can cause water retention, so I find it best to avoid salty and sugary foods. Some doctors also recommend increasing potassium-rich foods, such as bananas, since the treatment can cause more excretion of potassium. Blood sugar levels may also need to be monitored while on this treatment.7,8
While some folks may experience a surge of energy, I think it's still important to rest and recuperate. It’s tempting to be an Energizer Bunny for a few days, but I feel like we’ll just end up paying for it later. Listen to your body and try to take it easy.
Each time I’ve undergone a round of IVSM, my heart races, my mind wanders, and I can’t sleep. Rather than suffer from less than 3 hours of shut-eye each night during treatment, I’ve taken advantage of sleep medications such as Ambien and Rozerem.
8. Mood swings
Mood swings can be side effects during IVSM treatment.9 My family and I have learned that I need lots of patience and gentle understanding while I’m temporarily not in control of my emotions. I may even feel cognitively deficient, almost downright dumb. This is NOT the time to make big decisions, but it is a good time to avoid confrontation.
Given that corticosteroids can bring about mood changes, keep a close eye on your mood if you suffer from depression.9 Knowing in advance that your depression might become exaggerated helps tremendously when you feel the tug of that dark hole. Reassure yourself that it’s just a temporary condition and will soon pass.
10. Weakened immunity
Solu-Medrol can also make you more susceptible to illness. I find it best to try to avoid contact with people who are sick, and it is advised to not receive vaccinations unless your doctor gives you permission.5 If you do begin to see signs of infection, such as increased fever, chills, rash, and respiratory distress, contact your doctor immediately. I will avoid public places to help protect myself as well.
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