Topical Steroids Are Often Misused. Here’s Why It Needs To Stop!

6th of April is World Skin Health Day. IADVL, second largest organization of over 10,000 qualified dermatologists, under the leadership of its national president, Dr. P. Narsimha Rao, has decided to celebrate the day with the theme, ‘Fight Topical Steroid Misuse to Maintain Good Skin Health.’

Topical steroids are probably the most important medicine in our therapeutic armamentarium. However, we dermatologists are facing instances of their misuse, and prolonged misuse, at that, with an alarming increased frequency over the last few years. Topical steroids have become a quick-fix for all kinds of rashes and even more dangerously, for instant fairness. They are also wrongly used on the groin area in various dangerous and irrational combinations. This misuse, exacerbated by unregulated availability and sale across chemist counters, is singularly the most common cause of a nation-wide epidemic of resistant fungal infections over the last couple of years. Long-term, unsupervised misuse of topical steroids leads to some long-lasting serious side-effects and dependence.

Here are five reasons why this issue must be addressed, and why we must curb the use and sale of OTC steroid-containing ointments.

  1. They don’t work to treat the original itch or skin problem that they are often recommended for, by chemists and loved ones.
  2. This has led to an epidemic of chronic funal infections, which are resistant to anti-fungal treatment. This is something dermatologists all over the country have been witnessing over the last few years.
  3. Long term use of the so-called brightening creams on the face can lead to severe acne and redness, and even cause overgrowth of hair.
  4. Long-term use of steroid creams leads to the thinning of the skin and stretch marks, which may never go away completely
  5. Long term use of potent steroids may lead to its absorption, which causes system side-effects like decreased immunity.

With so many potential side-effects of combination steroid-containing creams, it is warranted to be careful and not to use such creams without the supervision of doctors. Steroid creams are useful for controlling many acute and chronic skin ailments. However, these must be used only for the specific problem, and time period, as advised by a qualified dermatologist.

Written by Dr. O.P. Gangwani, MD
President, IADVL, Delhi State Branch