Topical Corticosteroids

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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What are the side effects of topical corticosteroids?

Common side effects of topical corticosteroids are:

  • itching,
  • burning,
  • irritation,
  • redness, and
  • dryness.

Long term use can lead to loss of skin tone, deterioration of skin cells, and risk of infections.

What drugs interact with topical corticosteroids?

The risk of topical corticosteroids interacting with other drugs is low, and they do not have significant interactions with other drugs. Administration of other topical medications should be separated from administration of topical corticosteroid to avoid any potential interaction and diminished effect.

What formulations of topical corticosteroids are available?

Topical corticosteroids are available in:

  • cream,
  • ointment,
  • gel,
  • lotion,
  • solution,
  • foam,
  • spray,
  • shampoo,
  • oil, and
  • pads.

What about taking topical corticosteroids during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?

There is no evidence of safe and effective use of topical corticosteroids in pregnant mothers. Therefore, they should be used only if clearly needed. Long term use and large applications of topical corticosteroids may cause birth defects in the unborn. It is not known whether topical corticosteroids enter breast milk. Therefore, caution must be exercised before using it in nursing mothers. Topical corticosteroids should not be applied to the breasts of nursing mothers unless the mothers instructed to do so by the physician.

REFERENCE: FDA Prescribing Information.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/10/2014

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