Dexamethasone Tablet | Side Effects, Dosage & More
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Generic Name:

dexamethasone, Oral tablet

Generic Name:
Decadron,DexPak Jr TaperPak,DexPak TaperPak

dexamethasone, Oral tablet

All Brands

  • Decadron
  • DexPak Jr TaperPak (Discontinued)
  • DexPak TaperPak
A discontinued drug is a drug that has been taken off the market due to safety issues, shortage of raw materials, or low market demand.
SECTION 1 of 5

Highlights for dexamethasone

Oral tablet
1

The dexamethasone oral tablet is used to treat many conditions. These include inflammation, allergic reactions, and flare-ups of ulcerative colitis. It’s also used to treat adrenal insufficiency.

2

Dexamethasone comes as an oral tablet, oral solution, or eye drops. It’s also available as an injectable solution, which is only given by a healthcare provider.

3

The oral tablet is available as the brand-name drug DexPak. It’s also available as a generic drug.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Heart damage

If you’ve recently had a heart attack, you may be at increased risk for further heart damage from this drug. Before starting this drug, be sure your doctor knows you’ve had a heart attack.

Infection

Dexamethasone can cover up or worsen certain infections. In addition, infections can develop during treatment. Don’t use this drug if you have fungal infections, or a history of parasite infections or tuberculosis. Tell your doctor about any past illnesses or infections.

Eye problems

Using dexamethasone for long periods can lead to eye problems such as cataracts or glaucoma. The drug may also cause damage to the optic nerves, or fungal or viral eye infections.

Measles or chickenpox

Tell your doctor if you haven’t had chickenpox or measles, or if you haven’t had the vaccines to prevent them. You could have more serious versions of these illnesses if you have them while taking dexamethasone.

Drug features

Dexamethasone is a prescription medication. It’s available as an oral tablet, oral solution, or eye drops. It’s also available as an injectable solution, which is only given by a healthcare provider.

The dexamethasone tablet is available as the brand-name drug DexPak. It’s also available as a generic drug. Generic drugs usually cost less. In some cases, they may not be available in every strength or form as the brand-name version. 

Why it's used

The dexamethasone oral tablet is used to treat conditions that cause inflammation, conditions related to immune system activity, and hormone deficiency.

More Details

How it works

Dexamethasone belongs to a class of drugs called steroids. A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.

More Details

Why it's used

The dexamethasone oral tablet is used to treat conditions that cause inflammation, conditions related to immune system activity, and hormone deficiency.

These conditions include:

  • inflammation
  • allergic reactions
  • rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, including ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and acute gouty arthritis
  • skin diseases, such as pemphigus, severe erythema multiforme (Stevens-Johnson syndrome), exfoliative dermatitis, bullous dermatitis herpetiformis, severe seborrheic dermatitis, severe psoriasis, or mycosis fungoides
  • flare-ups of intestinal disease, such as ulcerative colitis
  • flare-ups of multiple sclerosis or myasthenia gravis
  • pre-treatment for chemotherapy to reduce inflammation and side effects from cancer medications
  • adrenal insufficiency (a condition where the adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones)

How it works

Dexamethasone belongs to a class of drugs called steroids. A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.

With certain conditions, inflammation can cause the immune system to be overactive. This can damage the body's tissues. Steroids such as dexamethasone help block the immune system’s response to inflammation, which helps prevent this damage.

For people with adrenal insufficiency, dexamethasone is used to replace missing hormones. The adrenal gland helps control certain body functions. These include managing blood glucose, fighting infection, and controlling stress. In people with adrenal insufficiency, the adrenal gland releases lower amounts of certain hormones. Dexamethasone helps replace these hormones.

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SECTION 2 of 5

dexamethasone Side Effects

Oral tablet

More Common Side Effects

The more common side effects that can occur with dexamethasone oral tablets include:

  • nausea

  • vomiting

  • stomach upset

  • swelling (edema)

  • headache

  • dizziness

  • mood changes, such as depression, mood swings, or personality changes

  • trouble falling asleep

  • anxiety

  • low potassium levels (causing symptoms such as tiredness)

  • high blood glucose

  • high blood pressure

If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious Side Effects

Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 9-1-1 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • Unusual tiredness

  • Unusual dizziness

  • Unusual digestive upset. Symptoms can include:

    • stomach pain
    • nausea or vomiting
  • Blood in the stool, or black stools

  • Blood in the urine

  • Unusual bleeding or bruising

  • Unusual swelling throughout the body, or bloating in the abdomen (stomach area)

  • Infection. Symptoms can include:

    • fever
    • muscle aches
    • joint pain
  • Changes in mood or thoughts, or mood disorders such as depression. Symptoms can include:

    • severe mood swings
    • euphoria (a feeling of intense happiness)
    • trouble sleeping
    • personality changes
  • Severe allergic reaction. Symptoms can include:

    • fever
    • trouble breathing
  • Adrenal insufficiency. Symptoms can include:

    • tiredness
    • nausea
    • darkened skin color
    • dizziness when standing
  • More frequent infections (can occur with long-term use)

  • Stomach ulcers. Symptoms can include:

    • pain in the abdomen (stomach area)
  • Congestive heart failure. Symptoms can include:

    • shortness of breath
    • tiredness
    • swollen legs
    • rapid heartbeat
  • Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones)

Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Dexamethasone doesn’t cause drowsiness.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
SECTION 3 of 5

dexamethasone May Interact with Other Medications

Oral tablet

Dexamethasone can interact with other medications, vitamins, or herbs you may be taking. An interaction is when a substance changes the way a drug works. This can be harmful or prevent the drug from working well.

To help avoid interactions, your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, or herbs you’re taking. To find out how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Medications that might interact with this drug

Antibiotics

Erythromycin is used to treat infections caused by bacteria. When used with dexamethasone, this drug can increase the amount of dexamethasone in your body. This raises your risk of side effects.

Antifungal drugs

When used with dexamethasone, certain drugs used to treat certain fungal infections can lower the level of dexamethasone in your blood. This can keep dexamethasone from working well. Examples of these drugs include:

  • ketoconazole
  • itraconazole
  • posaconazole
  • voriconazole 

Amphotericin B is another drug used to treat fungal infections. Using this drug with dexamethasone raises your risk of low potassium levels. (Potassium is a mineral that helps your nerves, muscles, and organs work normally.) This can cause muscle cramps, weakness, tiredness, and an irregular heartbeat.

Blood thinners

Using dexamethasone with certain blood thinners can decrease the levels of these drugs in your body. This can make them less effective, and raise your risk of clots or stroke. Examples of these drugs include: 

  • apixaban
  • rivaroxaban

Warfarin is also used to thin the blood. Using dexamethasone with this drug raises your risk of increased bleeding. Your doctor may need to monitor you closely.

Cholesterol drugs

If you take dexamethasone with certain drugs used to lower cholesterol, it can keep your body from absorbing dexamethasone well. This could keep dexamethasone from working well. Examples of these drugs include: 

  • cholestyramine
  • colesevelam
  • colestipol

Cushing’s syndrome drugs

Aminoglutethimide is used to treat symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome (a disease of the adrenal gland). Using this drug with dexamethasone may decrease the amount of dexamethasone in your body. This means it may not work as well.

Diabetes drugs

Dexamethasone may increase your blood glucose. If you take diabetes drugs, your doctor may need to change your dose. Examples of these drugs include:

  • amylin analogs, such as:
    • pramlintide
  • biguanides, such as:
    • metformin
  • GLP-1 agonists, such as:
    • exenatide
    • liraglutide
    • lixisenatide
  • DPP4 inhibitors, such as:
    • saxagliptin
    • sitagliptin
  • insulin
  • meglitinides, such as:
    • nateglinide
    • repaglinide
  • sulfonylureas, such as:
    • glimepiride
    • glipizide
    • glyburide
  • SGLT-2 inhibitors, such as:
    • canagliflozin
    • dapagliflozin
    • empagliflozin
  • thiazolidinediones, such as:
    • pioglitazone
    • rosiglitazone

Diuretics (water pills)

When used with dexamethasone, these drugs reduce your body’s potassium levels. (Potassium is a mineral that helps your nerves, muscles, and organs work normally.) This can cause muscle cramps, weakness, tiredness, and an irregular heartbeat. Examples of these drugs include:     

  • bumetanide
  • furosemide
  • hydrochlorothiazide

Epilepsy drugs

When used with dexamethasone, certain drugs used to treat epilepsy can lower the level of dexamethasone in your blood. This can keep dexamethasone from working well. Examples of these drugs include:

  • phenytoin
  • fosphenytoin
  • phenobarbital
  • carbamazepine

Heart drugs

Digoxin is used to treat heart rhythm problems or heart failure. Taking this drug with dexamethasone could increase your risk of irregular heartbeats caused by low potassium levels. (Potassium is a mineral that helps your nerves, muscles, and organs work normally.)

Hormones

Taking certain hormones with dexamethasone can cause decreased levels of these hormones in your body. Your doctor may have to adjust your dose of either the dexamethasone or hormone medications.  Examples of these drugs include:

  • estrogens
  • oral contraceptives

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) drugs

Taking certain drugs used to treat HIV with dexamethasone can reduce the levels of these drugs in your body. This means they may not work as well. Examples of these drugs include: 

  • protease inhibitors, such as:
    • atazanavir
    • darunavir
    • fosamprenavir
    • indinavir
    • nelfinavir
    • ritonavir
    • saquinavir
    • simeprevir
    • tipranavir
  • non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, such as:
    • etravirine
  • entry inhibitors, such as:
    • maraviroc
  • integrase inhibitors, such as:
    • elvitegravir

NSAIDs

Using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with dexamethasone can increase risk of stomach upset. Talk with your doctor about whether you can take these drugs together. Examples of NSAIDs include: 

  • aspirin
  • ibuprofen
  • indomethacin
  • naproxen

Sedatives or sleeping pills

Phenobarbital can be used to help people sleep. Taking this drug with dexamethasone can lower the level of dexamethasone in your blood. This can keep it from working well.

Tuberculosis drugs

When used with dexamethasone, certain drugs used to treat tuberculosis (TB) can lower the level of dexamethasone in your blood. This can keep dexamethasone from working well. Examples of these drugs include: 

  • rifampin
  • rifabutin
  • rifapentine

Isoniazid is another TB drug. When it’s used with dexamethasone, levels of isoniazid can be lowered. This can keep isoniazid from working well.

Vaccines

Avoid getting vaccines when taking dexamethasone. Certain vaccines may not work as well for people taking this drug. Also, the drug may make some live vaccines stronger. This raises the risk of side effects from the vaccine.

Other drugs

Aspirin is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It’s often used to treat pain, as well as thin the blood to reduce your risk of heart attack.  Dexamethasone can decrease your aspirin levels. This can make aspirin less effective and increase your risk of heart attack. Also, aspirin can increase your risk of bleeding from stomach ulceration (sores) when used with dexamethasone. If you take aspirin, talk with your doctor about whether dexamethasone is safe for you. 

Thalidomide is used to treat skin lesions and multiple myeloma. Combining it with dexamethasone can cause toxic epidermal necrolysis. This skin condition can be life-threatening. 

Cyclosporine is used to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients, as well as to treat rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis. Taking this drug with dexamethasone could increase the risk that your immune system will be suppressed (won’t work well). This would raise your risk of infection.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.
Dexamethasone warnings
infections
People with infections

Dexamethasone may make a systemic fungal infection worse. (Systemic means it affects the whole body, not just one part.) This drug shouldn’t be used if you’re taking medication to treat a systemic fungal infection. Also, dexamethasone may hide the signs of a non-fungal infection.

congestive heart failure
People with congestive heart failure

Dexamethasone can increase sodium levels, edema (swelling), and potassium loss. This can make your heart failure worse. Before taking this drug, talk to your doctor about whether it’s safe for you.

high blood pressure
People with high blood pressure

Dexamethasone can increase sodium levels, edema (swelling), and potassium loss. This can increase your blood pressure. Before taking this drug, talk to your doctor about whether it’s safe for you.

kidney disease
People with kidney disease

Dexamethasone can increase sodium levels, edema (swelling), and potassium loss. This can increase your risk of irregular heartbeats. Before taking this drug, talk to your doctor about whether it’s safe for you.

peptic ulcers
People with peptic ulcers

Dexamethasone can increase the risk of stomach or intestinal bleeding and ulcers. If you have peptic ulcers or other conditions of the intestines, talk to your doctor about whether this drug is safe for you. Conditions of the intestines include:

  • diverticulitis
  • ulcerative colitis 
osteoporosis
People with osteoporosis

Dexamethasone decreases bone formation. It also increases bone resorption (breakdown of bone). As a result, it raises the risk of osteoporosis (bone thinning). The risk is higher for people already at an increased risk of osteoporosis. These include post-menopausal women.

hyperthyroid
People with hyperthyroidism

This drug is removed from the body more quickly than normal. Your doctor may adjust your dose of this drug based on your condition.

eye problems
People with eye problems

Long-term use of dexamethasone may cause eye problems such as cataracts or glaucoma. Your risk is higher if you already have eye problems such as cataracts, glaucoma, or increased pressure in the eye.

tuberculosis
People with tuberculosis

If you have latent tuberculosis or tuberculin reactivity, dexamethasone can re-activate the disease. If you test positive for tuberculosis, talk with your doctor about whether taking this drug is safe for you.

history of heart attack
People with recent history of heart attack

If you’ve recently had a heart attack, use of dexamethasone may lead to a tear in your heart muscle. Before you start this drug, be sure your doctor knows you’ve had a recent heart attack.

diabetes
People with diabetes

Dexamethasone can increase blood sugar levels. As a result, your doctor may change the dose of your antidiabetic drugs.

myasthenia gravis
People with myasthenia gravis (MG)

If you have MG, using dexamethasone with certain drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease can cause severe weakness. Examples of these drugs include memantine, rivastigmine, and donepezil. If possible, wait at least 24 hours after taking these drugs to start dexamethasone therapy.

pregnant woman
Pregnant women

Dexamethasone is a category C pregnancy drug. That means two things:

  1. Research in animals has shown adverse effects to the fetus when the mother takes the drug.
  2. There haven’t been enough studies done in humans to be certain how the drug might affect the fetus.

Talk to your doctor if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant. This drug should only be used if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

breastfeeding
Women who are breast-feeding

Dexamethasone is not recommended for women who are breast-feeding. The drug can pass to a child through breast milk and may cause side effects.

seniors
For seniors

The kidneys of older adults may not work as well as they used to. This can cause your body to process drugs more slowly. As a result, more of a drug stays in your body for a longer time. This raises your risk of side effects.

telephone
When to call the doctor

Call your doctor right away if you develop a new or worsened illness or symptoms while taking dexamethasone, including fever.

Also, call your doctor right away if you become pregnant while taking this drug.

Allergies
Allergies

Dexamethasone can cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms can include:

  • trouble breathing
  • swelling of your throat or tongue 

If you have an allergic reaction, call your doctor or local poison control center right away. If your symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Don’t take this drug again if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to it. Taking it again could be fatal (cause death).

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How to Take dexamethasone (Dosage)

Oral tablet

All possible dosages and forms may not be included here. Your dose, form, and how often you take it will depend on: 

  • your age
  • the condition being treated
  • how severe your condition is
  • other medical conditions you have
  • how you react to the first dose

What are you taking this medication for?

Inflammation

Brand: DexPak

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 0.75 mg, 1 mg, 1.5 mg, 4 mg, and 6 mg

Generic: dexamethasone

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 0.5 mg, 0.75 mg, 1 mg, 1.5 mg, 4 mg, and 6 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)

Typical dosage: 0.75–9 mg every 6–12 hours, depending on the condition being treated

Child dosage (ages 0–17 years)

Initial dosage: 0.02–2 mg per kilogram of body weight per day, taken in three or four divided doses. Dosage depends on the condition being treated

Senior dosage (ages 65 years and older)

The kidneys of older adults may not work as well as they used to. This can cause your body to process drugs more slowly. As a result, more of a drug stays in your body for a longer time. This raises your risk of side effects.

Your doctor may start you on a lowered dose or a different dosing schedule. This can help keep levels of this drug from building up too much in your body.

Warnings

When stopping treatment, your dose should be decreased slowly over time. This helps to prevent withdrawal side effects.

Adrenal insufficiency

Brand: DexPak

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 0.75 mg, 1 mg, 1.5 mg, 4 mg, and 6 mg

Generic: dexamethasone

Form: Oral tablet
Strengths: 0.5 mg, 0.75 mg, 1 mg, 1.5 mg, 4 mg, and 6 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18 years and older)

Typical dosage: 0.75–9 mg every 6–12 hours, depending on the condition being treated.

Child dosage (ages 0–17 years)

Initial dosage: 0.02–2 mg per kilogram of body weight per day, taken in three or four divided doses. Dosage depends on the condition being treated

Senior dosage (ages 65 years and older)

The kidneys of older adults may not work as well as they used to. This can cause your body to process drugs more slowly. As a result, more of a drug stays in your body for a longer time. This raises your risk of side effects.

Your doctor may start you on a lowered dose or a different dosing schedule. This can help keep levels of this drug from building up too much in your body.

Warnings

When stopping treatment, your dose should be decreased slowly over time. This helps to prevent withdrawal side effects.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Dexamethasone oral tablets come with serious risks if you don’t take them as prescribed.

If you stop taking the drug suddenly or don’t take it at all

If you don’t take the drug at all, your condition won’t be controlled. If you stop taking dexamethasone suddenly, you may have withdrawal side effects. These can include:

  • tiredness
  • fever
  • muscle aches
  • joint pain

Your dose should be decreased over time to avoid withdrawal side effects. Don’t stop taking dexamethasone unless your doctor tells you to.

If you miss doses or don’t take the drug on schedule

Your medication may not work as well or may stop working completely. For this drug to work well, a certain amount needs to be in your body at all times.

If you take too much

You could have dangerous levels of the drug in your body. Symptoms of an overdose of this drug can include:

  • irregular heartbeats
  • seizures
  • severe allergic reaction, with trouble breathing, hives, or swelling of your throat or tongue

If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor or local poison control center. If your symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

What to do if you miss a dose

If you miss a dose, wait and take the next dose as planned. Don’t double your dose. This could result in dangerous side effects.

How to tell if the drug is working

The symptoms of your condition should be reduced.

Dexamethasone oral tablets are used for long-term treatment. 

Important considerations for taking dexamethasone
take with food
Take dexamethasone with food. Taking it with food can reduce stomach upset from the drug
timing
Take this drug at the time(s) recommended by your doctor
can crush tablet
You can cut or crush the tablet
storage
Store this drug carefully
See Details
refillable
A prescription for this medication is refillable
See Details
travel
Travel
See Details
clinical monitoring
Clinical monitoring
See Details
Hidden costs
Hidden costs
See Details

Store this drug carefully

  • Keep dexamethasone tablets at room temperature, between 68°F and 77°F (20°C and 25°C).
  • Don’t store this medication in moist or damp areas, such as bathrooms.

A prescription for this medication is refillable

You should not need a new prescription for this medication to be refilled. Your doctor will write the number of refills authorized on your prescription.

Travel

When traveling with your medication:

  • Always carry your medication with you. When flying, never put it into a checked bag. Keep it in your carry-on bag.
  • Don’t worry about airport x-ray machines. They can’t hurt your medication.
  • You may need to show airport staff the pharmacy label for your medication. Always carry the original prescription-labeled box with you.
  • Don’t put this medication in your car’s glove compartment or leave it in the car. Be sure to avoid doing this when the weather is very hot or very cold.

Clinical monitoring

Your doctor will monitor you during treatment with this drug. They may do tests to check for side effects from long-term use of dexamethasone. These tests may include: 

  • weight test
  • blood pressure test
  • eye test (glaucoma screening)
  • bone mineral density tests (osteoporosis screening)
  • x-ray of your gastrointestinal tract (this is done if you have symptoms of peptic ulcer, such as severe stomach upset, vomiting, or blood in your stool)

Hidden costs

You may need to have certain tests done during your treatment. The cost of these tests will depend on your insurance.

Are there any alternatives?

There are other drugs available to treat your condition. Some may be better suited for you than others. Talk to your doctor about other drug options that may work for you.

What does the pill look like?

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How Much Does dexamethasone Cost?

Oral tablet

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These prices represent the lowest priced national pharmacies for dexamethasone on GoodRx. They may be lower than your insurance.

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Content developed in collaboration with Stacey Boudreaux, PharmD

Medically reviewed by Susan J. Bliss, RPh, MBA and Alan Carter, PharmD on November 16, 2015

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.
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