Long-term continual use of topical steroids linked to skin withdrawal side effects
The decision will depend on how long you’ve taken them for, what dose you’re on, and where on your body you’re having surgery. It’s important that you don’t stop taking steroids without speaking to the person treating you first. You should always take medication as prescribed by the person treating you.
- Squeeze the topical steroid in a line from the last finger crease to the fingertip.
- Use enough of the preparation to cover the area to be treated (see information on fingertip units at the end of this information leaflet).
- If used correctly, topical corticosteroids should not cause side effects.
- Sometimes steroids can cause another condition known as Cushing’s syndrome.
- Rinsing your mouth out with water after using your medication can help to prevent oral thrush.
In adults, more potent steroids are typically used on the body and mild/moderate steroids on the face and skin folds (under arms, breast folds, groin and genitals). Topical corticosteroids should be spread thinly on the skin but in sufficient quantity to cover the affected areas. The length of cream or ointment expelled from a tube may be used to specify the quantity to be applied to a given area of skin. This length can be measured in terms of a fingertip unit (the distance from the tip of the adult index finger to the first crease).
How to use skin cream or ointment
Your doctor may advise you to take drugs called bisphosphonates, or calcium and vitamin D supplements, along with the steroids to help prevent this. Regular exercise, especially things that involve your bones carrying the weight of your body, such as walking, can also help to reduce the risk of getting osteoporosis. Taking steroid tablets for a long time can make you more likely to get infections. If you feel feverish or unwell, or develop any new symptoms after starting steroids, it’s important to tell your doctor or rheumatology nurse.
- If there is no improvement in the condition or the symptoms are worsening then you may be required to have a biopsy of the area affected.
- If you suffer from eczema or other skin conditions, there are many different treatment options available that can help.
- There are other ways of taking or using hydrocortisone, including tablets and injections.
- Their main job when applied to the skin is to reduce skin inflammation and irritation.
- If you’re worried about the side effects, read the patient information leaflet for further information.
Steroids might affect some medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart or blood pressure problems, or mental health issues. If you have any of these conditions, the person treating you will need to make sure the steroids aren’t making the condition rsesporte worse. Steroids are usually only given for a short time to quickly treat flare-ups of your condition. Depending on which condition you have and what dose you’re prescribed, you may notice an improvement in your symptoms within a few days.
About hydrocortisone for skin
We advise anyone experiencing potential withdrawal symptoms to speak to their healthcare professional before starting to use these products again. Suspected adverse side effects can be reported to us through the Yellow Card scheme. Eczema (also known as dermatitis) is a very common skin condition that affects as many as one of every five children (with slightly lower rates in adults).
What are topical corticosteroids?
The scales range from 0 to 5 or 6 (depending on the type of scale used) where 0 refers to ‘completely clear’ and higher numbers referring to less improvement, no improvement or a worsening of severity. The risk of side effects runs parallel with the strength of the steroid and the duration of therapy. The face, genitals and skin fold areas will absorb more steroids than other areas.
Potency of a topical corticosteroid preparation is a result of the formulation as well as the corticosteroid. The potency of steroid should be matched to the severity of the disease, using the least potent steroid that effectively controls the disease. Topical steroids are one of the first treatment options for people whose psoriasis covers only a small amount of their body. Corticosteroids can weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to infection.
Up to 1 out of every 5 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage, and 1 in 40 babies are born with a birth defect. Hydrocortisone skin treatments work on your skin’s cells to stop these chemicals being released. You’re more likely to have a serious side effect if you use a strong hydrocortisone treatment (such as hydrocortisone butyrate) or if you use hydrocortisone on a large patch of skin for a long time.
Another limitation is that the results are relevant to short term, less than 6 month use only. Fingertip units can be helpful when determining prescription quantities. If treatment with a local corticosteroid is clinically justified beyond 4 weeks, a less potent corticosteroid preparation should be considered. The preferred formulation for corticosteroids is usually ointment as they are more moisturising than cream, and contain less or no preservatives.