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Topical steroids are used to alleviate skin inflammation, itching, redness, and irritation caused by various skin conditions. These conditions include eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, allergic reactions, and certain autoimmune skin disorders. They work by suppressing the immune response and reducing inflammation, providing relief from discomfort.
Topical steroids are categorized into 7 groups based on their vasoconstrictive and anti-inflammatory properties. The potency levels range from low to high, with each class having different applications and considerations.
Low-potency steroids are typically used on thin-skinned areas or delicate areas of the skin, such as the face, groin, armpits and genitals. These steroids are effective for treating mild to moderate inflammation and itching, such as hydrocortisone 1% cream.
Medium-potency steroids are commonly used for moderate skin conditions that don't respond well to lower-potency options. They strike a balance between efficacy and safety and are often prescribed for conditions like atopic dermatitis and psoriasis. Triamcinolone and fluocinolone are examples of medium-potency steroids.
High-potency steroids are reserved for severe skin conditions that require intensive treatment. They are not typically used on the face or areas with thin skin due to their potential side effects, such as skin thinning and discoloration. These steroids are effective in reducing inflammation and controlling symptoms. Clobetasol and betamethasone are examples of high-potency steroids.
When using topical steroids on children or during pregnancy, it's important to exercise caution. Low-potency steroids are generally preferred, as they carry a lower risk of side effects. Using a high-potency topical steroid during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of low birth weight. Always consult a healthcare professional before using topical steroids in these situations and discuss potential risks and benefits.