The long-term use of dexamethasone may result in thrush, bone loss, cataracts, easy bruising, or muscle weakness. It is pregnancy category C in the United States meaning use should be based on benefits being predicted to be greater than risks. In Australia, it is category A, meaning it has been frequently used in pregnancy and not been found to cause problems to the baby. It should not be taken when breastfeeding. Dexamethasone has anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant effects.
Dexamethasone was first made in 1957. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system. Dexamethasone is not expensive. In the United States a month of medication typically costs less than 25 USD. In India a course of treatment for preterm labor is about 0.5 USD. It is available in most areas of the world.
Dexamethasone is used to treat many inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and bronchospasm. Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, a decrease in numbers of platelets due to an immune problem, responds to 40 mg daily for four days; it may be administered in 14-day cycles. It is unclear whether dexamethasone in this condition is significantly better than other glucocorticoids.
Dexamethasone is commonly given as a treatment for croup in children, as a single dose can reduce the swelling of the airway to improve breathing and reduce discomfort.