According to the National Eczema Association, over thirty million Americans have eczema (source: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/), making it one of the most common diagnoses in the country. In fact, skin disorders are one of the most common reasons for doctor’s visits (source: https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2013/01/22/study-ids-the-top-10-reasons-for-doctors-visits). Most often, topical steroids are the treatment of choice for eczema. Your doctor will choose the steroid dosage he or she believes the best for your eczema, often starting with the lowest appropriate dose.
Use of topical steroids with eczema generally leads to a successful outcome. Doctors commonly prescribe a course of treatment, which will include topical steroids, prescribed at a certain strength, for a specific length of time. Much like antibiotics, it is important to complete the entire course of the topical steroids, even if your symptoms improve. Topical steroids are used because they are anti-inflammatory, which means they reduce the swelling and irritation to the area effected by exzema, and immunosuppressive, which means they stop the immune response that led to the eczema in the first place. This makes the use of topical steroids with eczema the front line medical treatment.
Typically, your doctor will prescribe the use of topical steroids with eczema for ten to fourteen days. You should be seeing some relief in your symptoms within the first few days of use, with complete success near the end of your initial treatment course. However, for some people, after the initial course has completed, there may still be some symptoms. In this situation, your doctor may change you to a different topical steroid, increase the strength of your current prescription, or simply prescribe an additional course of treatment. While needing another course of treatment may be frustrating, by choosing to start with the lowest appropriate dose, your doctor hoped to mitigate any side effects you may have experienced from the topical steroid treatment.
While most mild topical steroids don’t have many side effects, someone using them may still experience side effects including stinging or burning and thinning of the skin. These side effects can be more pronounced with stronger dosages. With a full course of topical steroids, users may experience skin discoloration, excess hair growth, or even develop an allergy.
If one takes topical steroids for eczema over a long period of time, one may develop symptoms of topical steroid withdrawal, or red skin syndrome. This syndrome can be very frustrating to sufferers, as the very product designed to treat their eczema leads to a worsening of skin conditions. Topical steroid withdrawal may require additional or different treatment, and sufferers may find themselves experiencing worse skin irritation than they started with.
For most people, the use of topical steroids with eczema is a sanity saver. Topical steroids decrease the unpleasant skin irritation and sensations associated with eczema. Outbreaks generally clear up in a few weeks, and eczema sufferers can go back to living an itch-free existence!