Steroid creams have always been in controversy. Most of the doctors love it but most patients don’t even want to see its name on their medical prescriptions. Over years steroid creams have somehow earned a bad reputation and that’s a sad thing to happen to a drug as good as steroid cream.
Ever wondered why steroid creams are still prescribed so largely when it has so many side effects?
Steroid cream side effects : Causation
Personally speaking, steroid creams are my favorite when it comes to treating a majority of skin diseases. The only reason for its side effect is its improper usage.Steroid creams can give amazing results for eczema and various other skin problems. In fact the results are so gratifying that people get hooked to it and use it repeatedly, against doctor’s advise. This long term and un-guided use of steroid creams causes innumerable side effects.
Steroid creams comes in various potency or strength. The milder ones are less likely to cause any evident side effect, but the potent ones,if used improperly, can cause problems. Mild creams are prescribed for children and stronger ones for adults. The stronger the creams, more are the chances of side effects.
Just giving you a few example (chemical names) of widely prescribed mild and strong steroid creams, so that you are aware of what you are using……
Mild steroid creams: Hydrocortisone, Fluticasone, Desonide
Mid-potent steroid creams: Mometasone, triamcinolone
Strong Steroid creams: Clobetasol, Betamethasone, Halobetasol
Steroid cream side effects: Identification
Steroid creams when used over a long time can cause many unwanted side effects. I have mentioned below few of the most common side effects. If you notice any of these while using steroid creams, please inform your physician
1) Steroid cream dependence: The creams are actually addictive. As mentioned above, you fall in love with these creams from day one coz they are effective and then you continue using them, beyond the prescribed time. Your skin gets used to using steroid creams.This generates dependence. As a rule with long term steroid use, when you want to stop using them, your skin problem will relapse back and you will again start using steroid creams on the same area and this vicious cycle continues.
2) Thinning of the skin and appearance of bruise like mark where cream has been applied and very rarely stretch marks.these usually happen when very potent steroid creams are used for very long periods.
3) Flare up of your acne. People use steroid creams on their face, thinking that steroid can cure everything and make their skin beautiful. On the contrary,steroid creams can cause acne.
It should never be used to treat acne. It can improve the appearance of acne for once, but when you stop using steroid, acne can come back in a much worse way. Medically steroids are only prescribed for acne when your acne are very much inflamed, otherwise do not try steroid for acne
5) More chances of infection: Potent steroid creams when used for long, decreases the immunity of the skin which then becomes more prone to develop various infections like herpes, molluscum, folliculitis etc.
6) Excessive growth of hair (hypertrichosis) on the treated area. Again it happens after using strong steroids over long period of time.
Steroid cream side effects: Prevention and treatment
It is very easy to prevent these unlikely side effects of steroid creams. Just follow these simple rules:
1) Never use without doctors prescription: It is a very easily available over the counter cream, especially in India and widely promoted by pharmacist because they believe that steroid is the cure for every skin disease. The common names with which these creams are available (in India and UAE) are Betnovate, Dermovate, Diprogenta, diprosalic etc. Do not use these creams without Doctor’s advise.
2) Do not use it huge amounts: We normally think that if we use excess of a medicated cream, it will cure the disease faster. But that is never the case. There is a simple tip about how much cream is enoughOne FTU (finger tip unit) is the amount of cream which fits from the edge till the first crease of an adult index finger. This much cream is sufficient for an area as big as two full palm size of an adult’s hand. Do not exceed this amount.
3) Do not use it for period beyond doctors prescription: Doctors know what strength steroid cream should be used for what duration. Please believe in him/her. Generally a milder cream can be used for much longer than a stronger one…..a common sense, right?
4) Most of the steroid cream side effects like acne, thinning and bruising of skin, susceptibility to infections are temporary. They will reverse back once the steroid application is stopped. But effects like excessive growth of hair and telengiectasia would require laser sessions for its treatment.
5) Steroid dependence can be tackled by decreasing the exposure of steroid on the skin in a slow and calculated way. I ask the person to decrease the frequency of its usage from once or twice daily to once every alternate day and then twice a week and then stop completely. Or the other way is to replace the strong cream with a milder one first and then slowly decrease the frequency. The good thing is that this side effect is pretty much manageable.
Are you a regular steroid cream user? Do you also swear by names like betnovate and diprovate? Guess its time you give rest to your skin and save these creams for a better use in the future.