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Cortisone is a steroid hormone
Steroid hormone
A steroid hormone is a steroid that acts as a hormone. Steroid hormones can be grouped into five groups by the receptors to which they bind: glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids, androgens, estrogens, and progestogens...

. It is one of the main hormones released by the adrenal gland
Adrenal gland
In mammals, the adrenal glands are endocrine glands that sit atop the kidneys; in humans, the right suprarenal gland is triangular shaped, while the left suprarenal gland is semilunar shaped...

 in response to stress. In chemical structure, it is a corticosteroid
Corticosteroids are a class of steroid hormones that are produced in the adrenal cortex. Corticosteroids are involved in a wide range of physiologic systems such as stress response, immune response and regulation of inflammation, carbohydrate metabolism, protein catabolism, blood electrolyte...

 closely related to corticosterone
Corticosterone is a 21-carbon steroid hormone of the corticosteroid type produced in the cortex of the adrenal glands.-Roles:In many species, including amphibians, reptiles, rodents and birds, corticosterone is a main glucocorticoid, involved in regulation of fuel, immune reactions, and stress...

. It is used to treat a variety of ailments and can be administered intravenously, oral
Oral administration
Oral administration is a route of administration where a substance is taken through the mouth.-Terminology:Per os is an adverbial phrase meaning literally from Latin "by mouth" or "by way of the mouth." The expression is used in medicine to describe a treatment that is taken orally. The...

ly, intraarticularly, or transcutaneous
Transdermal is a route of administration wherein active ingredients are delivered across the skin for systemic distribution. Examples include transdermal patches used for medicine delivery, and transdermal implants used for medical or aesthetic purposes....

ly. Cortisone suppresses the immune system, thus reducing inflammation and attendant pain and swelling at the site of the injury. Risks exist, in particular in the long-term use of cortisone.


Cortisone was first identified by the American chemist Edward Calvin Kendall
Edward Calvin Kendall
Edward Calvin Kendall was an American chemist. In 1950, Kendall was awarded the 1950 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine along with Swiss chemist Tadeus Reichstein and Mayo Clinic physician Philip S. Hench, for their work with the hormones of the adrenal gland...

 while a researcher at the Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical practice and medical research group specializing in treating difficult patients . Patients are referred to Mayo Clinic from across the U.S. and the world, and it is known for innovative and effective treatments. Mayo Clinic is known for being at the top of...

. He was awarded the 1950 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine along with Philip S. Hench and Tadeus Reichstein
Tadeus Reichstein
Tadeusz Reichstein was a Polish-born Swiss chemist and Nobel laureate.Reichstein was born into a Jewish family at Włocławek, Congress Poland, and spent his early childhood at Kiev, where his father was an engineer...

 for the discovery of adrenal cortex
Adrenal cortex
Situated along the perimeter of the adrenal gland, the adrenal cortex mediates the stress response through the production of mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids, including aldosterone and cortisol respectively. It is also a secondary site of androgen synthesis.-Layers:Notably, the reticularis in...

 hormones, their structures, and their functions. Cortisone was first produced commercially by Merck & Co.
Merck & Co.
Merck & Co., Inc. , also known as Merck Sharp & Dohme or MSD outside the United States and Canada, is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. The Merck headquarters is located in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, an unincorporated area in Readington Township...

 On September 30, 1949, Percy Julian announced an improvement in the process of producing cortisone from bile acid
Bile acid
Bile acids are steroid acids found predominantly in the bile of mammals. Bile salts are bile acids compounded with a cation, usually sodium. In humans, the salts of taurocholic acid and glycocholic acid represent approximately eighty percent of all bile salts. The two major bile acids are cholic...

s. This eliminated the need to use osmium tetroxide, a rare, expensive, and dangerous chemical.


Cortisone is one of several end-products of a process called steroidogenesis. This process starts with the synthesis of cholesterol
Cholesterol is a complex isoprenoid. Specifically, it is a waxy steroid of fat that is produced in the liver or intestines. It is used to produce hormones and cell membranes and is transported in the blood plasma of all mammals. It is an essential structural component of mammalian cell membranes...

, which then proceeds through a series of modifications in the adrenal gland
Adrenal gland
In mammals, the adrenal glands are endocrine glands that sit atop the kidneys; in humans, the right suprarenal gland is triangular shaped, while the left suprarenal gland is semilunar shaped...

 (suprarenal) to become any one of many steroid hormones. One end-product of this pathway is cortisol
Cortisol is a steroid hormone, more specifically a glucocorticoid, produced by the adrenal gland. It is released in response to stress and a low level of blood glucocorticoids. Its primary functions are to increase blood sugar through gluconeogenesis; suppress the immune system; and aid in fat,...

. For cortisol to be released from the adrenal gland, a cascade of signaling occurs. Corticotropin-releasing hormone
Corticotropin-releasing hormone
Corticotropin-releasing hormone , originally named corticotropin-releasing factor , and also called corticoliberin, is a polypeptide hormone and neurotransmitter involved in the stress response...

 released from the hypothalamus
The Hypothalamus is a portion of the brain that contains a number of small nuclei with a variety of functions...

 stimulates corticotrophs in the anterior pituitary
Anterior pituitary
A major organ of the endocrine system, the anterior pituitary, also called the adenohypophysis, is the glandular, anterior lobe of the pituitary gland...

 to release ACTH, which relays the signal to the adrenal cortex. Here, the zona fasciculata
Zona fasciculata
The zona fasciculata constitutes the middle zone of the adrenal cortex, sitting directly beneath the zona glomerulosa. Constituent cells are organized into bundles or "fascicles"....

 and zona reticularis
Zona reticularis
The zona reticularis is the innermost layer of the adrenal cortex, lying deep to the zona fasciculata and superficial to the adrenal medulla. The cells are arranged cords that project in different directions giving a net-like appearance The zona reticularis is the innermost layer of the adrenal...

, in response to ACTH, secrete glucocorticoids, in particular cortisol. In the peripheral tissues, cortisol is converted to cortisone by the enzyme
Enzymes are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. In enzymatic reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process, called substrates, are converted into different molecules, called products. Almost all chemical reactions in a biological cell need enzymes in order to occur at rates...

 11-beta-steroid dehydrogenase. Cortisol has much greater glucocorticoid
Glucocorticoids are a class of steroid hormones that bind to the glucocorticoid receptor , which is present in almost every vertebrate animal cell...

 activity than cortisone, and, thus, cortisone can be considered an inactive metabolite of cortisol. However, 11-beta-steroid dehydrogenase can catalyze the reverse reaction as well, and, thus, cortisone is also the inactive precursor molecule of the active hormone cortisol. Cortisone is activated through hydrogenation
Hydrogenation, to treat with hydrogen, also a form of chemical reduction, is a chemical reaction between molecular hydrogen and another compound or element, usually in the presence of a catalyst. The process is commonly employed to reduce or saturate organic compounds. Hydrogenation typically...

 of the 11-keto-group, and cortisol is, thus, sometimes referred to as hydrocortisone.

Effects and uses

Cortisone, a glucocorticoid
Glucocorticoids are a class of steroid hormones that bind to the glucocorticoid receptor , which is present in almost every vertebrate animal cell...

, and adrenaline are the main hormones released by the body as a reaction to stress. They elevate blood pressure and prepare the body for a fight or flight response.

A cortisone injection can also be used to give short-term pain relief and reduce the swelling from inflammation
Inflammation is part of the complex biological response of vascular tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants. Inflammation is a protective attempt by the organism to remove the injurious stimuli and to initiate the healing process...

 of a joint
A joint is the location at which two or more bones make contact. They are constructed to allow movement and provide mechanical support, and are classified structurally and functionally.-Classification:...

, tendon
A tendon is a tough band of fibrous connective tissue that usually connects muscle to bone and is capable of withstanding tension. Tendons are similar to ligaments and fasciae as they are all made of collagen except that ligaments join one bone to another bone, and fasciae connect muscles to other...

, or bursa
Bursa (anatomy)
A bursa is a small fluid-filled sac lined by synovial membrane with an inner capillary layer of slimy fluid . It provides a cushion between bones and tendons and/or muscles around a joint. This helps to reduce friction between the bones and allows free movement...

 in, for example, the joints of the knee
The knee joint joins the thigh with the leg and consists of two articulations: one between the fibula and tibia, and one between the femur and patella. It is the largest joint in the human body and is very complicated. The knee is a mobile trocho-ginglymus , which permits flexion and extension as...

, elbow
The human elbow is the region surrounding the elbow-joint—the ginglymus or hinge joint in the middle of the arm. Three bones form the elbow joint: the humerus of the upper arm, and the paired radius and ulna of the forearm....

, and shoulder
The human shoulder is made up of three bones: the clavicle , the scapula , and the humerus as well as associated muscles, ligaments and tendons. The articulations between the bones of the shoulder make up the shoulder joints. The major joint of the shoulder is the glenohumeral joint, which...


Cortisone may also be used to deliberately suppress immune response in persons with autoimmune disease
Autoimmune disease
Autoimmune diseases arise from an overactive immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body. In other words, the body actually attacks its own cells. The immune system mistakes some part of the body as a pathogen and attacks it. This may be restricted to...

s or following an organ transplant
Organ transplant
Organ transplantation is the moving of an organ from one body to another or from a donor site on the patient's own body, for the purpose of replacing the recipient's damaged or absent organ. The emerging field of regenerative medicine is allowing scientists and engineers to create organs to be...

 to prevent transplant rejection
Transplant rejection
Transplant rejection occurs when transplanted tissue is rejected by the recipient's immune system, which destroys the transplanted tissue. Transplant rejection can be lessened by determining the molecular similitude between donor and recipient and by use of immunosuppressant drugs after...

. The suppression of the immune system may also be important in the treatment of inflammatory conditions such as severe IgE
IGE was one of the largest services company buying and selling virtual currencies and accounts for MMORPG. During its peak time, it had offices in Los Angeles, China , and headquarters & customer service centre in Hong Kong. IGE was one of the main monopoly in virtual economy services, also known...

-mediated allergies.

Last, cortisone is a common treatment for a severe sore throat that occurs commonly with EBV infectious mononucleosis. It is important to note that cortisone does not help lessen the duration of the virus, and is used purely to increase the comfort of a patient with trouble speaking or swallowing as a result of the mononucleosis-induced swollen throat.


Oral use of cortisone has a number of potential side-effects: hyperglycemia
Hyperglycemia or Hyperglycæmia, or high blood sugar, is a condition in which an excessive amount of glucose circulates in the blood plasma. This is generally a glucose level higher than 13.5mmol/l , but symptoms may not start to become noticeable until even higher values such as 15-20 mmol/l...

, insulin resistance
Insulin resistance
Insulin resistance is a physiological condition where the natural hormone insulin becomes less effective at lowering blood sugars. The resulting increase in blood glucose may raise levels outside the normal range and cause adverse health effects, depending on dietary conditions. Certain cell types...

, diabetes mellitus
Diabetes mellitus
Diabetes mellitus, often simply referred to as diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood sugar, either because the body does not produce enough insulin, or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced...

, osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a disease of bones that leads to an increased risk of fracture. In osteoporosis the bone mineral density is reduced, bone microarchitecture is deteriorating, and the amount and variety of proteins in bone is altered...

, anxiety
Anxiety is a psychological and physiological state characterized by somatic, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components. The root meaning of the word anxiety is 'to vex or trouble'; in either presence or absence of psychological stress, anxiety can create feelings of fear, worry, uneasiness,...

, depression
Depression (mood)
Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person's thoughts, behaviour, feelings and physical well-being. Depressed people may feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, or restless...

, amenorrhoea
Amenorrhoea , amenorrhea , or amenorrhœa, is the absence of a menstrual period in a woman of reproductive age. Physiological states of amenorrhoea are seen during pregnancy and lactation , the latter also forming the basis of a form of contraception known as the lactational amenorrhoea method...

, cataracts and glaucoma
Glaucoma is an eye disorder in which the optic nerve suffers damage, permanently damaging vision in the affected eye and progressing to complete blindness if untreated. It is often, but not always, associated with increased pressure of the fluid in the eye...

, among other problems.

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