‘Woman’s steroid cream addiction made her look like she’d been skinned alive.’ ‘My kids were scared.’ ‘My skin was covered in scales and shedding all over the house.’
These headlines – from Metro, The Sun and The Daily Mail respectively – allude in typically lurid style to the symptoms of topical steroid withdrawal. Each article tells the story of an eczema sufferer whose skin became ‘addicted’ to their medication.
“Three-months after I quit the steroid treatment my symptoms were so bad that I couldn’t sleep for weeks, my skin was swollen, and I was in constant excruciating pain,” said Lindsey, interviewed in The Sun article.
With these kinds of horror stories all over the internet, topical steroid withdrawal has begun to attract widespread attention. First described in a dermatology journal in 1979, it is now recognised by a number of associations, including the National Eczema Association (NEA) in the USA. There is also a support network known as ITSAN, which aims to raise awareness of the condition.
This being so, you could be forgiven for wanting to steer clear of topical steroids, perhaps seeking alternative strategies for treating your eczema. However, topical steroid withdrawal (also known as red skin syndrome) remains an emerging diagnosis that isn’t always acknowledged by dermatologists. What’s more, the benefits of topical steroids far outweigh the risks when the medication is used appropriately.
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