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Therapy with topical corticosteroids

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Therapy with topical corticosteroids has improved greatly in recent years due to both advanced understanding of their mode of action and awareness of their side effects, as well as newly developed derivatives with specifically designed pharmacological properties. Paradoxically, the fear of using corticosteroids has increased on the part of the public during the same period. Treatment of inflammatory or neoplastic skin disorders with topical corticosteroids can be both successful and safe only if certain points are clarified before it is begun. These include (a) specific diagnosis, (b) choice of strength of the compound needed for control of the disease, (c) time schedule for length of therapy and planned patient visits, and (d) choice of vehicle adequate to the skin lesion. Topical corticosteroids of different potency are available today; one can classify these into four groups (weak, medium, strong, very strong) and use them in a patient-tailored treatment. When large areas are to be treated, systemic side effects must be taken into consideration, and compounds that are degraded quickly after absorption are recommended. Finally, the corticophobia of many patients must be addressed by careful information to ensure compliance. Using these guidelines, treatment with corticosteroids is highly effective, easy to use by the patient, and allows a maximum of safety.

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Sterry, W. Therapy with topical corticosteroids. Arch Dermatol Res 284, S27–S29 (1992).

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Key words

  • Corticosteroids
  • Topical therapy
  • Skin disorders
  • Systemic side effects