The most common side effect of topical corticosteroid use is skin atrophy. All topical steroids can induce atrophy, but higher potency steroids, occlusion, thinner skin, and older patient age increase the risk. The face, the backs of the hands, and intertriginous areas are particularly susceptible. Resolution often occurs after discontinuing use of these agents, but it may take months. Concurrent use of topical tretinoin (Retin-A) % may reduce the incidence of atrophy from chronic steroid applications. 30 Other side effects from topical steroids include permanent dermal atrophy, telangiectasia, and striae.
In an open-label HPA axis safety trial in subjects 3 months to 12 years of age with atopic dermatitis, Betamethasone dipropionate cream (augmented), % was applied twice daily for 2 to 3 weeks over a mean body surface area of 58% (range 35% to 95%). In 19 of 60 (32%) evaluable subjects, adrenal suppression was indicated by either a ≤5 mcg/dL pre-stimulation cortisol, or a cosyntropin post-stimulation cortisol ≤18 mcg/dL and/or an increase of <7 mcg/dL from the baseline cortisol. Out of the 19 subjects with HPA axis suppression, 4 subjects were tested 2 weeks after discontinuation of Betamethasone dipropionate cream (augmented), % and 3 of the 4 (75%) had complete recovery of HPA axis function. The proportion of subjects with adrenal suppression in this trial was progressively greater, the younger the age group.