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As part of President Trump’s treatment, he was given dexamethasone, a powerful steroid. But how does dexamethasone work? And why did its use fuel speculation about both the severity of Trump’s disease and its effect on his mood after his release from the hospital?

Some of the most serious cases of Covid-19 are the result of an overreaction of a patient’s own immune system to the virus that causes the disease. This response, called a “cytokine storm,” can cause immune cells to attack not only the virus, but healthy tissues as well. Cytokine storms can cause permanent damage to the lungs, and in some cases, prove deadly. 

That’s why dexamethasone is sometimes used as a treatment. It makes such an overreaction less likely by suppressing the body’s immune system. But the use of the drug comes with risks. If given too early, it can weaken the immune system when a patient needs it most. 

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The steroid has been used for decades to treat a wide variety of ailments. It is inexpensive and widely prescribed. But side effects of dexamethasone can be quite serious. It is not uncommon for people treated with dexamethasone to display aggression, anxiety, or mood swings. 

Watch our video above for a quick look at how dexamethasone works.

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