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Steroid cream is a topical cream which is blended with steroids to treat skin problems. These creams are used to treat a variety of conditions, and they are available in both prescription and over the counter versions. Most commonly, steroid cream is recommended to treat a skin condition like eczema or a rash, with the steroids targeting the problem directly, as opposed to oral steroids, which must work their way through the body to the site.
The strength of a steroid cream depends both on the concentration of steroids used, and on the carrier oils used in the cream. Some oils encourage absorption, leading the skin to take up most of the steroids in the cream, while others may be less effective, causing the steroids to rub off, rather than entering the site. There are also several different types of steroids which can be used in a topical steroid to address specific issues.
Like other steroid products, steroid creams are meant for short term use, to address a specific problem. Steroids have a number of side effects, especially if used for an extensive period of time, and topical creams containing steroids can cause things like skin thinning, stretch marks, and discoloration. If a skin condition does not respond to steroids, the situation needs to be re-evaluated to determine the best course of action. Some studies have also linked a high use of steroid cream and steroids in general to cancer.
Steroids can ease itching, burning, and inflammation. Many skin conditions cause all of these symptoms, along with scaly skin and cracking. Using a steroid cream can target the cause of the skin condition, while also soothing the symptoms, to decrease healing time and increase patient comfort. Patients with eczema, for example, can use steroid-containing cream to promote healing and to reduce the amount of itching to cut down on scratching which can make the problem even worse.
If a steroid cream is purchased over the counter, the package should disclose the steroid used, and the strength, such as one percent hydrocortisone cream. Generally, the cream should not be used for more than a week, unless a doctor has specifically recommended an over the counter product for extended use. If the condition does not respond or grows worse, the over the counter cream should be discontinued, and an appointment should be made with a dermatologist, who can examine the site and prescribe a different medication or course of treatment.