Topical Corticosteroids

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Topical Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids (also known as "steroids") are a type of medicine that acts an anti-flammatory, and are used to treat a wide range of different conditions. Corticosteroids are in fact a man-made version of a hormone that is produced by the body's adrenal glands.

There are a number of ways that corticosteroids may be used as medicine, including in the form of tablets, injections, inhalers, and in topical form - that this to say as a cream, gel, lotion, mousse, ointment, or solution that is applied to the skin. It is as the latter, in topical form, that corticosteroids are used to treat eczema.

There are in fact a number of different topical corticosteroids, which have different strengths. For example:
  • Mild - Hydrocortisone

  • Moderate - Clobetasone butyrate

  • Potent - Betamethasone dipropionate

  • Very Potent - Clobetasol propionate
The availability of different types of topical corticosteroids does vary depending on where you live - but in general, milder varieties may be available over the counter at pharmacies, whereas the stronger more potent varieties will require a prescription from a doctor. In any case, the normal rule of thumb, is that the most suitable topical corticosteroid is that mildest one that can treat the patient's symptoms.

You should be aware that as well as the corticosteroid as the main active ingredient, many medicines containing corticosteroids may also contain other ingredients such as antibiotics or antifungals. Your doctor should be able to recommend the most suitable medicine for you - and the medicine will normally contain instructions for application an enclosed patient information leaflet, which you should follow, unless you doctor tells you otherwise.

Lastly, before using corticosteroids, you should be aware that, as with all medicines, there is a possibility of side-effects. The medicine's packaging will usually contain a list of possible side effects, but one of the most common with corticosteroids is a burning or stinging sensation when applying the medicine (especially near the beginning of treatment). Other side effects such as thinning of skin and changes in skin color are also possible, but usually only occur if too potent a corticosteroid is used, or if treatment is continued over a long period. Lastly, corticosteroids are not recommended for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, and neither are they recommended for young children.



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