Steroid Creams Often Met With Unfounded Fear

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Charman and other researchers in the department of dermatology at Queens Medical Centre asked 200 patients or parents of patients with atopic eczema to fill out a questionnaire about their attitudes toward corticosteroid creams. They found almost three-quarters of the responders worried about using corticosteroid creams on their own or their child's skin. The most common concerns were the risk of skin thinning, which was feared by almost 35% of those surveyed. Twenty-four percent feared long-term effects in general, and almost 10% were afraid of possible effects on a child's growth and development.

Quite a few patients had mistaken ideas about the strength of various creams. For example, about 75% of the patients had used hydrocortisone cream, which is one of the weakest corticosteroid creams available. However, 34% thought it was strong, and 20% didn't know; only 46% correctly identified it as weak.

"We hope general practitioners and family physicians will spend a little more time explaining the different strengths of corticosteroid creams available," Charman says. "The weaker creams are very unlikely to cause any problems. Strong ones are more likely to cause problems such as skin thinning, but they certainly would not have any effects on growth and development."

Vital Information:

  • A new study shows that 73% of patients are afraid of using topical corticosteroid creams for treatment of eczema and other skin conditions, though these fears may be unfounded.
  • Weak corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone, are very safe to use and are unlikely to have an effect on skin thinning or a child's growth; even stronger corticosteroids are unlikely to have negative effects with short-term use.
  • Corticosteroid creams and ointments are very effective, and doctors should take time to educate patients about the low risk of side effects.
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