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Warnings on the use of topical steroids for eczema

Topical steroids are commonly prescribed for Eczema, Atopic dermatitis and Psoriasis, they are used to reduce inflammation associated with these skin conditions, however their use does carry risks of side effects.

Topical steroids more commonly known as corticosteroids come in many different forms as topical creams in a range of concentrations with hydrocortisone at 1% being classified as mild in strength.

Topical steroids are most commonly used to control ‘flare ups’ of eczema to reduce the swelling and itchiness, however they should only be used sparingly and infrequently.

Many people suffering from eczema outbreaks have difficulty in finding the right amount of hydrocortisone cream to apply, too little can be ineffective whereas too much can cause side effects.

Another problem is for people who have been relying on the use of hydrocortisone to control their eczema is that once they stop using it they can become subject to a condition known as Topical Steroid Withdrawal Syndrome or TSW.

Side effects of using or overusing topical steroids can include;

Stinging or burning feeling when you first apply the treatment. This is quite common but improves as your skin gets used to the treatment.

Topical steroids may trigger or worsen other skin disorders such as acne, rosacea and perioral dermatitis.

Thinning of the skin can make it more prone to sunburn.

Long-term use of topical steroids may cause permanent striae like stretch marks, bruising, discolouration, or thin spidery blood vessels.

Skin colour may change especially if you have dark skin.

Hair growth may increase on the area of skin being treated.

You may develop an allergy to certain ingredients in the formula, like the preservative, emulsifier or nut derived ingredients which can irritate the skin and make the condition worse.

Other effects of topical steroids

All treatments applied to the skin enter the bloodstream and full strength topical steroids can have a negative effect on children’s growth if used too frequently.

In older people topical steroids can contribute fluid collection in the legs, raised blood pressure thinning of bones and Cushing's syndrome caused by high levels of a hormone in the blood which can lead to weight gain, skin thinning and mood changes.

Therefore great caution is required before embarking on a regime of topical steroid treatment for eczema or atopic dermatitis.

Firstly people suffering from eczema should explore alternative anti-inflammatory products and there are a number of excellent natural products that can reduce inflammation quickly and safely.

One is Manuka UMF honey which is also highly antibacterial and will prevent infection invading the eczema prone area due to scratching. This is especially important in children who find it almost impossible to stop scratching inflamed areas of eczema.

Another product which is convenient to apply and includes Manuka UMF honey in the formula is Active Manuka Honey Cream. This natural cream also includes a number of very beneficial natural oils renowned for their skin calming effects. The only caution with this product is that some of these natural oils are derived from nuts like almond, macadamia and shea butter. While these oils have many positive attributes they may not be suitable for people who have a known nut allergy.

In any case all topical products steroid based or natural should be tested on a small area of the skin before being applied to larger areas.

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