Steroid creams are often used to treat a variety of inflammatory skin conditions, but like any medication, there are possible side effects that may need further medical evaluation. Some of the most commonly reported side effects of creams containing steroids include thinning skin, loss of pigment at the application site, and the development of stretch marks. Rare but serious potential side effects of steroid cream include weakening of the immune system, menstrual irregularities, and organ damage.
Most people are able to use steroid cream without experiencing any negative side effects, although the risks of developing complications increase with prolonged use of this type of medication. Mild to moderate skin irritation is the most common side effect and may involve burning, itching, or mild swelling at the application site. If these symptoms persist, worsen, or if the skin begins to look red and feel warm to the touch, a doctor should be consulted for further evaluation.
Stretch marks and thinning skin may occur with extended use of steroid cream. Some of the smaller blood vessels underneath the skin may swell and become visibly noticeable. These symptoms are usually harmless, but any concerns should be addressed by a doctor or other qualified health care professional. A temporary loss of pigment may develop, but this side effect usually goes away after the medication has been discontinued.
Some studies have indicated that repeated or long-term use of steroid cream may have negative results on the reproductive system. Women may experience menstrual irregularities, which may affect fertility or other reproductive health concerns. Some men may experience erectile dysfunction as a result of the repeated use of this type of cream. The immune system may suffer negative effects from this topical treatment method, often resulting in increased infections and vulnerability to illness. In rare cases, organ damage, particularly relating to the liver or kidneys, may occur.
An allergic reaction is an uncommon yet potentially fatal side effect of steroid cream. Most allergic symptoms involve only the skin and do not pose any significant health concerns. A mild skin rash, itching, or swelling may indicate a mild allergic reaction. Severe symptoms such as facial swelling, chest pain, or difficulty breathing may indicate a life-threatening type of allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis and should be treated as a medical emergency.