What is the role of topical steroids in the treatment of atopic dermatitis (eczema)?

Updated: Mar 13, 2019
  • Author: Brian S Kim, MD, MTR, FAAD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
  • Print
Answer

Topical steroids are currently the mainstay of treatment. In association with moisturization, responses have been excellent.

Ointment bases are preferred, particularly in dry environments.

Initial therapy consists of hydrocortisone 1% powder in an ointment base applied 2 times daily to lesions on the face and in the folds.

A midstrength steroid ointment (triamcinolone or betamethasone valerate) is applied 2 times daily to lesions on the trunk until the eczematous lesions clear.

Steroids are discontinued when lesions disappear and are resumed when new patches arise.

Flares may be associated with seasonal changes, stress, activity, staphylococcal infection, or contact allergy.

Contact allergy is rare but accounts for increasing numbers of flares. These are seen mostly with hydrocortisone.

The results of a study from the Netherlands by Haeck et al. suggest that the use of topical corticosteroids for AD on the eyelids and periorbital region is safe with the respect to induction of glaucoma or cataracts. [46]

As a maintenance regimen, 1.25% hydrocortisone powder in Acid Mantle used diffusely as a steroid-based emollient is both effective and safe for longer periods (eg, months) to prevent acute flares in addition to using higher-class steroids to treat acute flares rapidly.


Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!