Topical Steroids

Topical steroids are applied directly to the skin to reduce inflammation and irritation.  General rule of using topical steroids is to prescribe the least strong steroid which is effective for the shortest possible length of time to achieve the healing effect but reducing side effects.

Indications for use

Click to view BADerm video on Topical Steroids

Topical Steroid Preparations

Topical corticosteroids are available in different strengths (described as mild, moderate, potent and very potent) and in different forms.  Discuss with your doctor or pharmacist which is most suitable for your condition.

  • creams (good for moist or weepy areas)
  • lotions (useful for larger areas with hair)
  • ointments (good for dry or scaly skin)
  • gels or mousse
  • tapes and bandages

How to apply Topical Steroids on your skin

Your doctor will advise how much and how often to apply based on the severity of your skin condition.  The medicine should only be applied to affected areas of skin.  If you are using both topical corticosteroids and emollients together, you should apply the emollient first and then wait around 30 minutes before applying the topical steroid.

The medicine dose is usually measured by Finger Tips Units (FTU) which is the amount needed to squeeze a line from the tip of an adult finger to the first crease of the finger.  The recommended dosage depends on which part of the body is being treated because parts with thinner skin and children require less strength.  To apply, gently smooth a thin layer onto your skin in the direction the hair grows. 

For adults, the general guide for FTU to be applied in a single dose are:

Dose (FTU)Skin area
0.5Genital area
1Hand, elbow, knee
1.5Foot, sole
2.5Face, neck
4Hand and arm, buttocks
8Legs, back, chest

Side effects on the skin

  • making a pre-existing skin infection worse
  • inflamed hair follicles (folliculitis) or pimples (acne)
  • thinning of the skin which can break more easily with mild trauma
  • stretch marks
  • changes in skin colour (usually in dark skin)
  • increased hair growth on the treated area

Side effects in the body

If potent or very potent topical corticosteroids are used for a long time or over a large area, there’s a risk of the medicine being absorbed into your bloodstream and can cause these side effects;

  • stunted growth in children
  • adrenal gland suppression
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Glaucoma
  • steroid induced Cataract
  • worsening of diabetes
  • prone to fractures due to bone thinning called osteoporosis
  • prone to infections due to weakening of the immune system

Discuss the treatment regime with your doctor or pharmacist to use your medication safely.  AVOID self-medication

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Disclaimer. TELEME blog posts contains general information about health conditions and treatments. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. 

If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from your doctor or other professional healthcare providers. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

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