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Drug Profile

The information on this site is intended to supplement and enhance, not replace, the advice of a physician who is familiar with your medical history. Decisions about your health should always be made ONLY after detailed conversation with your doctor.

Generic drug name: betamethasone (bay ta METH a sone)
Brand name(s): ALPHATREX, BETA-VAL, DERMABET, DIPROLENE, DIPROSONE, LUXIQ, SERNIVO, VALNAC
GENERIC: available FAMILY: Adrenal Steroids
Find the drug label by searching at DailyMed.

Generic drug name: desoximetasone (des ox i MET a sone)
Brand name(s): TOPICORT
GENERIC: available FAMILY: Adrenal Steroids
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Generic drug name: fluocinolone (floo oh SIN oh lone)
Brand name(s): CAPEX, DERMA-SMOOTHE/FS, SYNALAR
GENERIC: available FAMILY: Adrenal Steroids
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Generic drug name: fluocinonide (floo oh SIN oh nide)
Brand name(s): LIDEX, LIDEX-E, VANOS
GENERIC: available FAMILY: Adrenal Steroids
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Generic drug name: hydrocortisone [topical] (hye dro KOR ti sone)
Brand name(s): ALA-CORT, ALA-SCALP, ANUSOL HC, CORTAID, CORTIZONE 10, HI-COR, HYTONE, LOCOID, NEACLEAR LIQUID OXYGEN SCAR ADVANTAGE, PANDEL, PENECORT, STIE-CORT, SYNACORT, TEXACORT
GENERIC: available FAMILY: Adrenal Steroids
Find the drug label by searching at DailyMed.

Generic drug name: triamcinolone [topical] (trye am SIN oh lone)
Brand name(s): ARISTOCORT, KENALOG, TRIACET, TRIDERM
GENERIC: available FAMILY: Adrenal Steroids
Find the drug label by searching at DailyMed.

Pregnancy and Breast-feeding Warnings [top]

Pregnancy Warning

Glucocorticoids were absorbed through the skin and caused harm to fetuses (malformations) in animal studies. Because of the potential for serious adverse effects to the fetus, these drugs should not be used by pregnant women.

Breast-feeding Warning

Glucocorticoids are excreted in human milk. Because of the potential for serious adverse effects in nursing infants, you should not take these drugs while nursing.

Facts About This Drug [top]

These drugs are applied to the skin (topical use) and are commonly used to reduce inflammation (redness and swelling) and relieve itching caused by many kinds of skin conditions (e.g., eczema, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis).

There are two major categories of glucocorticoid preparations that are applied to the skin: those that contain fluorine and those that do not. In general, fluorinated versions (e.g., fluocinonide) are more potent than those that are not fluorinated (e.g.,...

These drugs are applied to the skin (topical use) and are commonly used to reduce inflammation (redness and swelling) and relieve itching caused by many kinds of skin conditions (e.g., eczema, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis).

There are two major categories of glucocorticoid preparations that are applied to the skin: those that contain fluorine and those that do not. In general, fluorinated versions (e.g., fluocinonide) are more potent than those that are not fluorinated (e.g., hydrocortisone). As a result, although they may be more effective, the fluorinated preparations are more likely to cause adverse effects such as skin thinning (particularly on the face, armpits and groin), loss of pigment and acne. In general, one should use the least potent preparation that is effective. Fluorinated glucocorticoids, in particular, should not be used for prolonged periods on the face or around the eye. Higher-strength glucocorticoids in particular should be spread in a very thin layer, covering only the area requiring treatment. For most conditions, applying the medication once daily will suffice.1 If the area that you are treating becomes irritated, stop using the drug and call your doctor. More potent versions should be avoided in children whenever possible.

Adverse effects beyond the skin (caused by absorption into the blood system) are related to the amount and strength of the drug used and can pose a problem when large areas of skin, especially in children, are treated. In principle, any adverse effect that can be caused by an oral glucocorticoid could also result from topical use. However, such effects are rare if these preparations are used correctly.

For a given formulation, ointments are likely to be more effective than creams or lotions. However, some people find ointments too greasy, especially for hairy areas. In this case, a cream, lotion or gel may be a better option.

Sometimes doctors use occlusive techniques (e.g., gloves, plastic film) to cover the topical glucocorticoid. Although this increases effectiveness, it also leads to more absorption into the body and potentially to more adverse effects. These techniques should be used only with a physician’s order.

Hydrocortisone (CORTAID) can now be purchased without a prescription in two strengths, 0.25% and 0.50%. However, the lowest concentration of this drug that is generally considered effective is 0.50%.

Some manufacturers combine topical glucocorticoids with topical antifungals (e.g., betamethasone and clotrimazole [LOTRISONE CREAM]).

In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved revisions to the product labeling for betamethasone to show that use of topical corticosteroids may increase the risk of cataracts, glaucoma and other eye disorders.[1]

Before You Use This Drug [top]

Tell your doctor if you have or have had:

  • allergies to glucocorticoids
  • infection at treatment site
  • pregnancy or are breast-feeding
  • skin disorder

Tell your doctor about any other drugs you take, including aspirin, herbs, vitamins, and other nonprescription products.

When You Use This Drug [top]

  • Check with your doctor if symptoms do not improve within one week or get worse.
  • You may experience stinging when this drug is applied. You do not need to call your doctor if this happens.

How to Use This Drug [top]

  • If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember, but skip it if it is almost time for the next dose. Do not take double doses.
  • Do not share your medication with others.
  • Take the drug at the same time(s) each day.
  • Store at room temperature with lid on tightly. Do not store in the bathroom. Do not expose to heat, moisture, or strong light. Keep out of reach of children.
  • Keep drug away from eyes.
  • Do not bandage or otherwise wrap the treated skin area without your doctor’s permission.
  • For foams: Do not smoke while using; do not use near an open flame.
  • For aerosols:
    • Do not smoke while using; do not use near an open flame.
    • Do not breathe spray vapors.
    • Do not get spray in eyes

Interactions with Other Drugs [top]

In general, any interaction that might occur with an oral glucocorticoid is theoretically possible with a topical formulation. However, the frequency and severity of such interactions are likely to be reduced and can be reduced further by the measures mentioned in this section. See section on oral glucocorticoids for a list of interactions reported for these drugs.

Adverse Effects [top]

Call your doctor immediately if you experience:

  • acne or oily skin
  • appetite loss
  • backache
  • blood-containing blisters
  • blood pressure increase
  • bruising that is unusual
  • depression
  • eye pain
  • face rounder
  • finger numbness
  • hair follicles are painful, itchy, red, and have pus-containing blisters
  • hair growth increased
  • hair loss
  • heartbeat irregular
  • irritability
  • lines on the skin of the arms, face, legs, trunk, or groin that are reddish or purplish
  • menstrual irregularities
  • muscle cramps or pain
  • muscle weakness
  • nausea
  • sexual desire or ability decreased in men
  • skin burning and itching and/or pinsized red blisters
  • skin color changes
  • skin infection
  • skin irritation around mouth
  • skin sensitivity increased
  • skin thinning and bruising
  • skin with raised, dark red, wartlike spots
  • stomach bloating, burning, cramping, or pain
  • swelling of feet or lower legs
  • tiredness or weakness that is unusual
  • vision blurring or loss
  • vomiting
  • weakness of arms and legs
  • weight gain that is rapid
  • weight loss

With long-term use of more potent formulations or if substantial absorption occurs:

  • cataracts
  • diabetes
  • glaucoma
  • tuberculosis

Call your doctor if these symptoms continue:

  • burning, dry, irritated, itching, or red skin (mild; transient)
  • skin lesions with increased redness or scaling (mild; temporary)
  • skin rash (minor; transient)

Signs of overdose:

  • backache
  • depression
  • face rounder
  • irritability
  • menstrual irregularities
  • sexual desire or ability in men decreased
  • tiredness or weakness that is unusual

If you suspect an overdose, call this number to contact your poison control center: (800) 222-1222.

Periodic Tests[top]

Ask your doctor which of these tests should be done periodically while you are taking this drug:

  • adrenal function tests

 

last reviewed May 31, 2021