Corticosteroids, also known as steroids, are anti-inflammatory medicines used for a range of skin conditions, particularly allergic diseases. However, when misused, these can lead to substantial and permanent damage.
What is worrisome is their use as fairness creams, often leading to self-use by patients and over the counter sale in pharmacies. The side effects of corticosteroids include pigmentation and breakdown of the skin, small and widened blood vessels on the skin, as well as bacterial and fungal infections.
Common side-effects from topical steroids
Generally short courses of topical steroids which last under four weeks are considered a safer option. Problems may develop however, if topical steroids are used for long periods, or if short courses of stronger steroids are repeated too often.
Long-term use topical steroids may cause side effects, the most common of which is skin atrophy. This is worsened by factors such as higher potency steroids, occlusion, thinner skin, and older patient age.
The long-term use of strong steroids is most concerning and side-effects can either be ‘local’ or ‘systemic’. Local means just affecting that bit of skin and systemic means affecting the whole person.