The Link Between Dermatitis and Corticosteroids

There's a link between dermatitis and corticosteroids. These are safe, effective medications for skin rashes - as long as you use them properly. Learn more in this article!
The Link Between Dermatitis and Corticosteroids

Last update: 12 March, 2021

Dermatitis and corticosteroids go hand-in-hand, as the latter is usually the treatment for the former. Corticosteroids can be your allies in spacing and minimizing dermatitis outbreaks when properly used.

This medication has had negative reviews due to the side effects attributed to them. However, they’re safer than they appear to be when used under medical supervision. In fact, the corresponding safety margin is appropriate when used as specified by a professional.

What’s dermatitis?

A skin rash.
Diaper dermatitis is a common form of dermatitis in children and can be treated with corticosteroids.

Dermatitis is an inflammatory, chronic, itchy skin disease. Topical corticosteroids are the treatment of choice when there’s an outbreak.

As you can see, there’s a link between dermatitis and corticosteroids since they’re the drugs of choice. This is because they’re safe and effective as long as you use them appropriately for the treatment of dermatitis.

Preventing or spacing the frequency of these outbreaks is crucial for a person’s quality of life. Corticosteroids are used less frequently by preventing and spacing out outbreaks.

Why use topical corticosteroids?

These can be natural or synthetic.

  • Natural corticosteroids are steroid hormones the body synthesizes from cholesterol and intervene in both, inflammatory and immunological processes, and also control stress
  • Synthetic corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone, are synthesized by modifying the structure of natural ones. They’re usually marketed in the form of drug preparations and the topical form refers to the possibility of applying them directly to the lesion.

How do corticosteroids work?

"Corticosteroids" spelled with colorful letters.

These drugs have anti-inflammatory, vasoconstrictor, immunomodulatory and antiproliferative effects. They’re topical because they reduce inflammation, itching, and scratching caused by dermatitis.

They help to control dermatitis outbreaks when handled properly. They don’t cure it, though.

Depending on their potency, corticosteroids fall under the following classification:

  • Extremely high potency is the most effective, as it includes clobetasol.
  • High potency, such as methylprednisolone, is one of the most prescribed active ingredients to treat atopic skin and includes beclomethasone and betamethasone (used against eczema and dermatitis).
  • Low potency, such as hydrocortisone, is a pharmaceutical specialty (EFP) even in minimal concentrations.

Dermatitis and corticosteroids: side effects

The side effects of corticosteroids used in the treatment of dermatitis depend mainly on the following factors:

  1. The side effects vary depending on the potency of the drug and the higher the potency, the more likely its possibility of triggering side effects
  2. Applying a corticosteroid to the elbows or soles of the feet isn’t the same as applying it to the face, folds, or genitals because thinner skin absorbs it more easily
  3. The skin of children, the elderly and adolescents is more susceptible to side effects
  4. The skin doesn’t absorb a liquid solution like it absorbs a cream or an ointment, so the fattier the excipient, the greater the absorption and the duration of its effect
  5. Similarly, the longer the treatment, the greater the risk of side effects (This is why it’s sometimes better to use a high potency corticosteroid for a few days than a lower potency corticosteroid for a longer treatment)
  6. The larger the treated area, the greater the possibility of side effects

Do you know the side effects of corticosteroids?

This substance produces irreversible side effects such as stretch marks, spider veins, or dermal atrophy. However, it also produces other side effects that are reversible such as facial erythema, variations in skin pigmentation, acne, and rosacea, among others.

Corticosteroids are photosensitizers so people must use solar protection when undergoing treatment with it. Also, it could cause side effects at a systemic level. These are rare, though, and due to the absorption of the corticosteroid through the skin.

Among these side effects are:

  • Delayed growth
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Mineralocorticoid effect

Talk to your doctor for more information.

Try to use specific emollient creams between outbreaks to avoid the use of corticosteroids if you suffer from dermatitis, and always follow your doctor’s instructions. This is the best way to control the disease and bypass the excessive use of medication.

You can also avoid the side effects of corticosteroids when you use them under medical supervision. This is because you must follow the dosage and duration of treatment prescribed by your doctor.

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  • Mateos, M. (2011). Guía de tratamiento de la Dermatitis Atópica en el niño. Documento de consenso grupo de expertos.

  • Berbegal, L., DeLeon, F. J., & Silvestre, J. F. (2015). Estudio de sensibilización a corticoides en una consulta de alergia cutánea. Actas Dermo-Sifiliográficas. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ad.2015.07.007