Cortisone- How Long Can I Use It? by Deb Chase

Question and Answer about Retin ACortisone 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.


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