Topical corticosteroids, or steroid based creams, are a treatment commonly used for eczema. This kind of medicated treatment is often used topically and relieves symptoms within a short period of time. They help to reduce skin inflammation and effectively will clear up a flare up of eczema. Their downside however is that they are not a long term solution and even have the potential to make eczema symptoms worse in the future, along with other unwanted side effects. There are many different types and brands of topical steroids that are put into different groups based on their strength. They range from “super potent”, or Class 1, to “least potent” or Class 7, and come in different forms such as ointments, creams, lotions, or sprays. The stronger or more potent the steroid, the better it works, however it may result in greater side effects especially with long term use.
Hydrocortisone 1% is a low-strength steroid that is commonly used to treat children and babies with eczema. This usually works well, but with more severe cases a stronger steroid might need to be used. Different kinds of steroids also may need to be used on various parts of the body. For example, a lower strength steroid should be used on the face because the skin is delicate and much more sensitive. Other parts of the body such as the arms and legs have thicker skin and less nerve endings, therefore a stronger steroid is usually used. An even stronger steroid might need to be used for the palms of the hands and bottoms of feet, which also have very thick skin and are harder to treat.
Using a steroid topical lotion treatment for a short amount of time usually won’t cause any side effects, however individuals may find that their eczema continues to flare up, and they have to consistently use the medication to relieve symptoms. The steroids eventually start to weaken the skin’s natural barrier, and so it is easier for flare ups to occur. Other side effects of steroid use include stinging and burning upon application, thinning of the skin, the triggering or worsening of other skin conditions such as acne or rosacea, change in skin color, and development of an allergy to the medication and preservatives used in the product.
Another downside of using steroids to treat eczema is that it is possible for the skin to go through withdrawal after use (post steroid withdrawal). Rashes might develop or eczema might worsen significantly (intense itching, crusty skin, even bleeding) if the skin has become dependent on the medication. These are usually characterized by having more of a burning sensation than the itching sensation that is present with eczema.
Some may also develop perioral dermatitis, a reaction toward certain steroids. In some cases, perioral dermatitis lasts from months to years.
If you are looking for a treatment for you or your child’s eczema, consider all of your alternative treatments before reaching for steroid based medications especially if your child is a newborn or infant. There are many effective ways to treat eczema that are less harsh on the skin and free of any unwanted side effects. There are also different aspects of eczema that need to be considered such as allergen sources. Over the years, LEMYKA team has accumulated in-depth knowledge in eczema related conditions, and we would love to help you. Please contact us or subscribe to join LEMYKA Health Discussion Group to find out more.