Cortisone gels and creams are another one of those treatment options that we love to hate. When used properly under supervision from a health care professional, cortisone can dramatically clear-up a wide range of skin problems including, eczema, poison ivy or a red rash from who knows what.
All cortisone products are not equal. In the US there are actually seven grades of strength. The mildest is known as hydrocortisone which is even available without a prescription. Betamethasone ( prescription only) is considered a moderate cortisone and is 100X more powerful than hydrocortisone. Clobesterol, the strongest form of cortisone is a whopping 600X more powerful than hydrocortisone and reserved for severe problems. The form of cortisone can also impact on the health of the skin. Cortisone gels and ointments have the greatest potency while creams and lotions have the lowest absorption.
How Does Cortisone Clear the Skin?
Cortisone decreases irritation by surpressing the release of inflammatory compounds such as interlukin and tumour necrosis factor ( TNF) that trigger skin problems. These bad boys also can cause fever, asthma symptoms and arthritis pain which is why oral cortisone is prescribed for these common health issues.
How Long Can I Use Cortisone?
How long you can safely use cortisone depends on the type of cortisone, the strength of the product and what it is used for. According to Dr Gary Goldenberg of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, a mid level cortisone such a prescription hydrocortisone can be used safely for 1-2 weeks. Triluma which is a mixture of cortisone, Retin A and hydroquinone can be used in a three month on, three month off pattern. However with long term skin problems like eczema, cortisone are used for longer periods of time. To get the benefits without problems, doctors may recommend using costisone in a long term on and off bursts. For example, you may be told each week to use cortisone for 3 days straight and then stop using it for the next four days
When Cortisone Turns Nasty
Cortisone treatments are effective because they have a major impact on basic body dynamics. Its really not surprising that anything that can cause such a sea change in how our body functions, can cause a list of signifcant problems. Cortisone degrades both collagen and elastin rapidly aging and thinning the skin. On the body it can cause stretch marks which are notoriously hard to erase. Cortisone can also cause blood vessels to leak leading to deep purple bruises . Oddly enough when used on the face can actually provoke a red rash around the mouth. On other parts of the body, cortisone creams can cause severe dryness. Not good.
Bottom line on cortisone: As a group, cortisone products can offer quick relief to both mild and severe skin problems. But they can turn nasty, very nasty. To avoid significant and sometimes permanent problems, always follow directions carefully. Be sure to follow up with your physician and never use cortisone longer than recommended.