What is the Difference Between Cortisone and Hydrocortisone

The main difference between cortisone and hydrocortisone is that cortisone is the inactive prodrug whereas hydrocortisone is the name for cortisol medication.

Cortisone and hydrocortisone are two types of medication that convert into cortisol, which is a steroid hormone responsible for increasing glucose in the bloodstream.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Cortisone
– Definition, Structure, Function
2. What is Hydrocortisone
– Definition, Structure, Function
3. Similarities Between Cortisone and Hydrocortisone
– Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Cortisone and Hydrocortisone
– Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Cortisone, HydrocortisoneCortisone vs Hydrocortisone - Comparison Summary

What is Cortisone

Cortisone is a steroid hormone activated in the liver. It also serves as a corticosteroid metabolite, which is a pharmaceutical prodrug. Kidneys produce cortisone from cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced in the cortex of the adrenal gland. However, cortisone is the inactive metabolite of cortisol. In the liver, cortisone is activated by converting it into cortisol. More importantly, both conversions are enzymatic reactions.

Compare Cortisone and Hydrocortisone

Figure 1: Cortisone

Furthermore, cortisone can be an inactive prodrug, and the liver converts cortisone into cortisol. The various methods of administration of cortisone include intravenous, oral, intra-articular (into a joint), or transcutaneous administration. In addition, cortisone injection serves as a pain relief and it reduces inflammation in joints including the knee, elbow, and shoulder. 

What is Hydrocortisone

Hydrocortisone is the name of the medication given for the hormone, cortisol. Its administration conditions include adrenocortical insufficiency, adrenogenital syndrome, high blood calcium, thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, dermatitis, and asthma. In addition, it is a choice of treatment for adrenocortical insufficiency. Further, the administration routes are by mouth or by injection.

Cortisone vs Hydrocortisone

Figure 2: Hydrocortisone

Moreover, the side effects of hydrocortisone include mood changes, edema, and increased risk of infections. In addition, osteoporosis, upset stomach, physical weakness, easy bruising, and candidiasis are the side effects of the long-term usage of hydrocortisone. Generally, hydrocortisone is a glucocorticoid with anti-inflammatory and immune suppression effects.

Similarities Between and Cortisone and Hydrocortisone

  • Cortisone and hydrocortisone are two types of medication that are important as the hormone cortisol.
  • Both have anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects.

Difference Between Cortisone and Hydrocortisone


Cortisone refers to a hormone produced by the adrenal cortex, one of the glucocorticoids. It is also made synthetically for use as an anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy agent. Hydrocortisone, on the other hand, refers to a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal cortex and used medicinally to treat inflammation resulting from eczema and rheumatism.

Chemical Formula

The chemical formula of cortisone is C21H28O5 while the chemical formula of hydrocortisone is C21H30O5.


Cortisone is the inactive prodrug while hydrocortisone is the name for cortisol when supplied as a medication.


Usually, cortisone becomes inactive in the kidney and it becomes active in the liver through enzymatic reactions while hydrocortisone is a medication.


Cortisone is a naturally-occurring corticosteroid hormone while hydrocortisone is a synthetic medication.


Cortisone is the natural form of corticosteroid hormone, which is the inactive form of cortisol. Generally, cortisol is a  steroid hormone and, the cortex of the adrenal gland produces it. In addition, the main function of cortisol is to increase the glucose levels in the bloodstream. Moreover, cortisol becomes inactive in the kidney into cortisone and cortisone becomes active in the liver, converting into cortisol. Hydrocortisone, on the other hand, is a medication, and it’s useful for conditions such as high blood calcium levels thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, dermatitis, asthma, etc. Therefore, the main difference between cortisone and hydrocortisone is their uses.

  1. Cortisone.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
  2. Hydrocortisone.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Aug. 2022.
Image Courtesy:
  1. Cortison” By NEUROtiker – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
  2. Cortisol2” By – Own Work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things. She has a keen interest in writing articles regarding science.

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