Topical steroids suppress the inflammation in the skin that is caused by flare-ups of eczema and other rashes that occur on the upper layer of the dermis. In addition to eczema, topical steroids often prove to be an effective treatment for psoriasis, vitiligo, atopic dermatitis, lichen sclerosus and several other skin conditions.
The most common topical steroid used for rashes or other itchy skin issues is hydrocortisone. While these creams and ointments are not a cure for eczema or other skin ailments, they do relieve such symptoms as itching, inflammation and redness. Very mild forms of hydrocortisone are available as over-the-counter medications, but Dr. Victor can prescribe a stronger formulation to relieve skin-irritating conditions.
Cortisone is a naturally occurring hormone that the body produces to fight inflammation. However, the cortisone chemical that is produced within our bodies naturally is created and distributed at levels that are not high enough to self-treat skin inflammation effectively. Topical corticosteroids are more concentrated with synthetic forms of cortisone and are therefore more potent, which generally makes them a very successful method for treating these symptoms quickly and thoroughly.
Topical steroids are important because they can help relieve the itching caused by a variety of skin conditions. This in turn prevents a possible infection from occurring when the affected area is scratched. In some cases if an infection is already present, an antibiotic may be added to the topical steroid prescription to relieve both the itching and resolve the infection.
different types of topical steroids
Available in a variety of preparation methods, Dr. Victor may prescribe a cream, ointment, lotion, gel, foam or shampoo, depending on the type of condition being treated and its location on the body. Whichever form of topical steroid you need to use, in most cases it will be recommended that you apply it either once or twice a day.
Topical steroids come in various strengths as well. When you first visit the doctor for a rash or another skin inflammation issue, you will probably be prescribed a mild version. If the symptoms persist, the next prescription will most likely be for a more potent topical steroid to apply until the symptoms subside. Different strengths may also be used for different parts of the body or be related to the length of treatment. A strong topical steroid may be inappropriate for skin that is thin and delicate, and a mild steroid concentration may not be strong enough to effectively treat a condition appearing on an area of thick skin. Also, since topical steroids can be used for only so long before our bodies become immune to them, a mild prescription may be selected to prolong treatment. Lower strength corticosteroids are typically safe to use for up to three months at a time, while highly concentrated formulations may only be recommended for three weeks of use at a time. Dr. Victor will inform you how long to wait before it is safe to resume treatment with topical steroids once again.
side effects of topical steroid use
The word steroid makes many people nervous because it reminds them of anabolic steroids, which are used in body building for weight gain and muscle mass. The types of steroids in topical corticosteroids are completely different from anabolic steroids and their risks. The use of topical steroids is associated with only rare and minimal side effects. The risks of side effects are dependent on the size and area of skin being treated, the length of time the treatment is being used and the nature of the skin problem. Some local side effects of topical steroid use are atrophy, which is a mild thinning of the skin that corrects itself over a short period of time, and temporary loss of skin pigmentation on the treated area. This side effect usually occurs in darker skinned patients.
Schedule a consultation with Dr. Victor to see if topical steroids are right for you in the treatment of a skin condition involving inflammation.