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Do doctors also use steroids for overall fitness and treating certain health conditions?

It has happened so many times in the history of medical science that a drug discovered for some specific treatment later found broader acceptance in many other areas. Sometimes the subsequent use became more prevalent than the original purpose for which it was invented. The story of steroids is a case in point that exemplifies the statement. Today, most people look upon steroids as a compound that is a synthetic version of the male hormone testosterone and its derivatives that finds wide use among sportsmen and bodybuilders. However, the story of the discovery of steroids and its evolution is quite interesting.

 The purpose of steroid discovery was for the treatment of low testosterone for people whose body was incapable of producing enough testosterone naturally. Gradually it became known that steroids have the capability of increasing bone density and can help in increasing skeletal muscle. This is the story of anabolic steroids, but there is also another type of steroid known as corticosteroid, which is also synthetic substance but used for medical treatments. Corticosteroids mimic the cortisol hormone that creates the natural defense against inflammation and helps the body to fight inflammation. 

Medical uses of steroids

The widespread use of steroids in the sporting arena especially by athletes and bodybuilders have made people believe that it is the only area for using steroids.  Although steroids are akin to any other medicines and have a good amount of medical application, the general masses relate it quickly with sporting activities especially doping.

Corticosteroids are the drug of choice for the treatment of diseases and conditions arising from asthma and arthritis.  For arthritis patients, steroids help to reduce inflammation and joint pain and those suffering from asthma experience opening up air passageway swelling.  As inflammation happens in many skin diseases, corticosteroids are effective in the treatment of multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease and in reducing nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Although very rare, the anabolic steroid is also useful in some medical conditions like loss of muscle mass in AIDS and cancer patients, low testosterone, delayed puberty in young boys and for repairing damaged tissue after an injury.

However, the large-scale use of anabolic steroid happens clandestinely and illegally in the sporting arena for enhancing performance to gain an unfair advantage in competition.

Working modality of anabolic steroid

Steroids, when taken orally, flows through the bloodstream and bonds with the androgen receptors thereby activating it. This marks the beginning of the speedy process of muscle building. The body produces more proteins than it would normally do and it goes into building muscles. At the same time, some of the androgen receptors block the hormone glucocorticoids. In effect, the body accelerates the process of breaking down proteins into amino acids that supply more energy to muscles much faster. This quickens the recovery time that you need between training allowing you to train harder with little rest.

 Studies have revealed that 2 to 5 kilos increase in muscle mass happens in 10 weeks with 5 to 20% increase in strength.

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