: any of numerous natural or synthetic compounds containing a 17-carbon 4-ring system and including the sterols and various hormones and glycosides—see anabolic steroid
Any of a class of natural or synthetic organic compounds with a molecular core, or nucleus, of 17 carbon atoms in a characteristic three-dimensional arrangement of four rings. The configuration of the nucleus, the nature of the groups attached to it, and their positions distinguish different steroids. Hundreds have been found in plants and animals and thousands more synthesized or made by modifying natural steroids. Steroids are important in biology, chemistry, and medicine. Examples include many hormones (including the sex hormones), bile acids, sterols (including cholesterol), and oral contraceptives (seecontraception). Digitalis was the first steroid widely used in Western medicine. Corticosteroids (seecortisone) and their synthetic analogs are used to treat rheumatism and other inflammatory ailments. See alsoanabolic steroid.