Oral Corticosteroids for Atopic Dermatitis

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Oral Corticosteroids for Atopic Dermatitis


Generic NameBrand Name

How It Works

Corticosteroids are similar to natural substances the body produces to help reduce inflammation and itching. For atopic dermatitis, corticosteroids reduce inflammation, itching, and thickening of the skin (lichenification).

Why It Is Used

Oral corticosteroids are generally not recommended for controlling atopic dermatitis. They are used only for severe cases of atopic dermatitis or when topical agents (creams and ointments) and antihistamines have not worked.

How Well It Works

Oral corticosteroids are often effective in reducing inflammation and itching. A high initial dose usually gets rid of the rash quickly.

Side Effects

Side effects of oral corticosteroids include headache, indigestion, increased appetite, restlessness, and increased risk of infection.

Skin rash, blurred vision, increased urination, excessive thirst, and mood changes are side effects that should be reported to your doctor.

Side effects from long-term use can include:

  • Cataracts, cloudy areas in the lens of the eye.
  • Osteoporosis, a progressive disease that causes bones to become thin and porous, increasing the risk for vertebrae and hip fractures.
  • Diabetes, a disease in which the body either does not produce or is unable to use insulin properly.
  • Cushing's syndrome, a disorder caused by excessive amounts of the hormone cortisol in the blood.
  • Avascular necrosis (osteonecrosis), a decrease or stoppage of blood to tissue, especially to one hip.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Corticosteroids are usually used in combination with preventive measures, such as moisturizing your skin and avoiding skin irritants.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology
Last Revised June 18, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.