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Glucocorticoids vs. Corticosteroids: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 10, 2024
Glucocorticoids are a type of corticosteroids focused primarily on carbohydrate metabolism, while corticosteroids include both glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids, affecting metabolism and electrolyte balance.

Key Differences

Glucocorticoids are a subclass of corticosteroids, specifically influencing carbohydrate metabolism. Corticosteroids encompass a broader range of steroid hormones, including both glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids, which have varied functions in the body.
In the realm of medical applications, glucocorticoids are often used for their anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties. Corticosteroids, being a broader category, include these applications but also extend to treatments involving electrolyte and water balance.
The production of glucocorticoids is primarily regulated by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, influencing metabolism and stress responses. Corticosteroids, in general, are regulated by similar mechanisms but have a wider range of physiological effects.
Common examples of glucocorticoids include cortisol and prednisone, known for their roles in stress response and inflammation reduction. Corticosteroids as a group encompass these, along with aldosterone, which plays a critical role in sodium retention and potassium excretion.
In terms of side effects, glucocorticoids can lead to increased blood sugar levels and suppressed immune function. Corticosteroids, due to their broader spectrum, can cause these effects along with potential impacts on electrolyte balance and blood pressure.

Comparison Chart


Primarily influence carbohydrate metabolism
Include functions related to both metabolism and electrolyte balance


Examples include cortisol and prednisone
Includes glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids like aldosterone

Medical Use

Commonly used for anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects
Used for a variety of purposes including inflammation control and electrolyte balance


Regulated mainly by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland
Similar regulatory mechanisms but with a broader impact

Side Effects

Can increase blood sugar, suppress immune function
Can cause a wide range of effects including electrolyte imbalance

Glucocorticoids and Corticosteroids Definitions


Glucocorticoids are a class of corticosteroids focusing on glucose metabolism.
Glucocorticoids play a significant role in balancing blood sugar levels during fasting.


Corticosteroids are a class of steroid hormones that regulate a wide range of physiological functions.
The doctor prescribed corticosteroids to manage her allergic reaction.


Glucocorticoids are adrenal cortex-produced steroids with metabolic and immunosuppressive properties.
Her treatment included a glucocorticoid to suppress the immune system’s overactivity.


Corticosteroids include glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids, affecting metabolism and electrolyte balance.
Aldosterone, a corticosteroid, plays a crucial role in maintaining electrolyte balance.


Glucocorticoids are hormonal substances that modulate inflammation and stress responses.
Doctors prescribed a glucocorticoid to reduce the inflammation in her joints.


Corticosteroids are used medically for anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive purposes.
Corticosteroids can effectively reduce inflammation in various medical conditions.


Glucocorticoids are synthetic or natural hormones used in anti-inflammatory treatments.
Prednisone, a synthetic glucocorticoid, is often used to treat autoimmune disorders.


Corticosteroids are produced by the adrenal cortex and are essential for stress response and homeostasis.
His treatment involved corticosteroids to help his body cope with physical stress.


Glucocorticoids are steroids that regulate carbohydrate metabolism and immune function.
Cortisol, a glucocorticoid, is crucial for managing stress and metabolic processes.


Corticosteroids are synthetic or natural compounds used in treating a wide range of disorders.
The patient was given corticosteroids to control her rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.


Any of a group of steroid hormones, such as cortisol, that are produced by the adrenal cortex, are involved in carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism, and have anti-inflammatory properties.


Any of the steroid hormones produced by the adrenal cortex or their synthetic equivalents, including the glucocorticoids, such as cortisol, and the mineralocorticoids, such as aldosterone. Also called adrenocorticosteroid.


Plural of glucocorticoid


Plural of corticosteroid


How do glucocorticoids work?

Glucocorticoids work by influencing the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and suppressing the immune system.

What are corticosteroids?

Corticosteroids are a class of steroid hormones that include both glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids, affecting various bodily functions.

What is the difference between glucocorticoids and corticosteroids?

Glucocorticoids are a subset of corticosteroids focused on metabolism and immunity, while corticosteroids have a broader range of effects including electrolyte balance.

What are glucocorticoids?

Glucocorticoids are a type of corticosteroids that mainly affect carbohydrate metabolism and immune response.

Can corticosteroids affect electrolyte balance?

Yes, corticosteroids, especially mineralocorticoids like aldosterone, can affect electrolyte balance and blood pressure.

What role do corticosteroids play in stress response?

Corticosteroids help the body respond to stress by regulating metabolism and immune function.

What are some examples of glucocorticoids?

Examples of glucocorticoids include cortisol, prednisone, and dexamethasone.

Do glucocorticoids have side effects?

Yes, glucocorticoids can cause side effects like increased blood sugar and suppressed immune function.

Are glucocorticoids used for inflammation?

Yes, glucocorticoids are commonly used for their anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties.

Can corticosteroids be used to treat allergies?

Yes, corticosteroids are often used to treat allergic reactions due to their anti-inflammatory properties.

Are corticosteroids safe for long-term use?

Long-term use of corticosteroids can lead to side effects, so they should be used under medical supervision.

Can glucocorticoids be used for asthma?

Yes, glucocorticoids are commonly prescribed for asthma to reduce airway inflammation.

Are there alternatives to glucocorticoids for inflammation?

Yes, there are other medications and therapies available for inflammation, but glucocorticoids are often effective.

Can corticosteroids cause weight gain?

Yes, long-term use of corticosteroids can lead to weight gain and other metabolic changes.

Can glucocorticoids affect blood sugar levels?

Yes, glucocorticoids can increase blood sugar levels, especially with prolonged use.

Do corticosteroids have mineralocorticoid activity?

Some corticosteroids, like aldosterone, have mineralocorticoid activity affecting electrolyte and water balance.

How do corticosteroids affect the immune system?

Corticosteroids, including glucocorticoids, can suppress the immune system to reduce inflammation and autoimmune responses.

Is cortisol a glucocorticoid?

Yes, cortisol is a primary glucocorticoid produced by the adrenal glands.

Are corticosteroids used in autoimmune diseases?

Yes, corticosteroids are commonly used to manage symptoms in various autoimmune diseases.

Are glucocorticoids natural or synthetic?

Glucocorticoids can be both naturally occurring in the body and synthetically produced for medical use.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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