DOCTOR'S VIEW ARCHIVE
Corticosteroid Side Effects
Here is a question for Dr. Shiel; one viewer wants to know whether long-term steroids can cause thinning of the skin.
Dr. Lee: Long term, you mean several months, I presume.
Dr. Shiel: Typically, for thinning of the skin to occur, several months use is required. Often times it does not show up for a year after initially starting treatment.
Dr. Lee: Another viewer wants to know whether this skin thinning is reversible after the corticosteroids are stopped.
Dr. Shiel: In my experience, significant thinning of the skin and other skin changes that occur because of steroids or cortisone-related medication, generally does not reverse significantly after these medications are discontinued.
Dr. Lee: Is it fair to say that if the skin is thinned by corticosteroids it is more prone to lacerations or injury?
Dr. Shiel: Absolutely.Not only is the skin more fragile as a result of cortisone, but the tiny blood vessels in the skin called capillaries are particularly sensitive to injury and can rupture more easily after taking cortisone medications.
Dr. Lee: Another viewer wants to know about the corticosteroids-induced rounding of the face. Is that temporary or is that irreversible after stopping the steroids?
Dr. Shiel: Fortunately, the rounding of the face, which occurs because of cortisone medications, is often times reversible. This usually occurs because of a re-distribution of fatty tissue and enlargement of fat in and around the face so that what is commonly referred to as a "moon face" can occur with prolonged cortisone use. This often times is a temporary phenomenon. There are a limited number of patients who unfortunately, this is not reverse in, but most often does reverse over time after the medicines are discontinued.
Dr. Lee: Thank you Dr. Shiel. Let me add that corticosteroids have many more significant side effects when used on a long-term, high-dose basis. Viewers are encouraged to see MedicineNet.com's Prednisone and Prednisolone articles.
Last Editorial Review: 12/26/2006