When you suffer from a complex immune disorder like psoriasis, you might find it tempting to just focus on the visible symptoms. Using a medication such as hydrocortisone cream may even lead you to believe you’re curing the underlying disease. Unfortunately, whatever short-term relief you may experience from these creams may well be counterbalanced by the new problems they create. Here is a quick overview of hydrocortisone creams, and why they are problematic for so many people.
How Does Hydrocortisone Work?
Before delving in with the effects that hydrocortisone creams have on your body, we want to provide some background information on their active ingredient. Your adrenal glands, located just above your kidneys, generate important hormones that regulate body functions. Corticosteroids (the active ingredient in hydrocortisone creams) are a synthetic version of one of these hormones. According to the Mayo Clinic, these medications deliver doses higher than what your body produces naturally.
Corticosteroids Affect Your Whole System
Corticosteroids can be introduced into the body through every possible entry method: They can be swallowed as pills, injected into the muscles or bloodstream, inhaled as nasal sprays, or applied as eye drops, ear drops or creams on the skin. Regardless of how these hormones enter your system, however, some of the same general warnings apply. Even if you just use a hydrocortisone skin cream, you have to be extremely careful to follow instructions and watch for side effects. For starters, there is the basic problem of your own adrenal glands’ response.
No use of steroids should be continued for a long period. The Mayo Clinic explains that your adrenal glands respond to the oversupply of synthetic corticosteroids by producing less of their own natural ones. As a result, by using a steroid product for more than several weeks, the lack of your own natural hormones creates a dependency. You cannot stop using these medications suddenly because your adrenal glands have to recover and start doing their regular job again. If you stop the hydrocortisone therapy too suddenly, you can experience body aches, fatigue and light-headedness.
Warnings for Use of Hydrocortisone Creams
Corticosteroids work by affecting the action of your body’s immune system, and they give rise to many side effects. Naturally, some side effects vary based on the point at which the drug enters your body, as well as how long you use it.
The National Institutes of Health publishes the following warnings to anyone using topical hydrocortisone creams, even if they are purchased over the counter: Wash your hands with soap and water after applying the cream. Apply it in a thin layer to the smallest possible area of your body, and keep it away from your nose and mouth. Do not use it on children without consulting a doctor because it may delay their growth. Also, talk to your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Side Effects of Hydrocortisone Cream
The cream may worsen acne, and it can cause you to become more susceptible to infections. It can also cause softening and irritation of the skin, as well as changes in skin coloration, blistering and pus at the location of hair follicles. Mayo Clinic warns that even mild over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams can cause thinning of the skin; thus, they should not be used on sensitive areas or anywhere that the skin folds against itself.
The Underlying Cause Is Most Important
Hydrocortisone cream may offer temporary symptomatic changes; however, it is important to remember that these creams, in the words of a Mayo Clinic dermatologist, “are not a cure because they have no effect on the underlying cause of inflammation.” You will achieve a greater level of overall health by handling the skin irritation of psoriasis with gentle and safe agents, while addressing the underlying disease through a proven nutritional supplement such as Equilac.