Corticosteroids (cortisone-like medicines) are used to provide relief for inflamed areas of the body. They lessen swelling, redness, itching, and allergic reactions. They are often used for a number of other diseases such as asthma or other auto immune diseases.
Corticosteroids are drugs closely related to cortisol, a hormone which is naturally produced in the adrenal cortex (the outer layer of the adrenal gland). Cortisol plays an important part in controlling salt and water balance in the body, and regulating carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism. When the body becomes stressed, the pituitary gland at the base of the brain releases ACTH, adrenocorticotropic hormone, which stimulates adrenals to produce cortisol. The extra cortisol allows the body to cope with the stress such as infection, trauma, surgery, or emotional problems. When the stressful situation ends, adrenal hormone production returns to normal.
The adrenal glands usually produce about 20 milligrams of cortisol per day, mostly in the morning, but can produce five times that much when needed.