It's hard to say exactly how long it will take for steroid cream to clear up eczema. The duration of treatment may range from a few days to six weeks, depending on the concentration of the corticosteroid and the affected areas of the skin. Generally, steroids should not be applied to sensitive areas of the body for more than a few days. The best approach is to use topical steroids until the exacerbation has completely disappeared and then stop using them.
In many cases, a treatment of 7 to 14 days is sufficient to eliminate an eczema outbreak. However, some cases may require a longer course. There are several over-the-counter creams available for treating eczema. Topical hydrocortisones can be purchased without a prescription.
These creams are low in concentration and help reduce irritation and inflammation. They should be applied one to four times a day, for up to 7 days, only on areas of the skin affected by eczema as prescribed by your doctor. Moisturizers can be applied in combination with steroids. Topical steroids are primarily prescribed to treat outbreaks of eczema.
You will usually be directed to apply topical steroids for short periods of treatment and then stop or reduce their use when the eczema settles. If you're prescribed a milder steroid, you'll usually be asked to stop taking it after a burst of treatment, but if you're prescribed a stronger steroid, you'll be told to “reduce” your lower potency preparations as your eczema settles. The frequency of exacerbations and the number of times treatment with topical steroids is needed vary greatly from person to person. Problems can occur if topical steroids are used for long periods of time or if short cycles of stronger steroids are repeated frequently.
A very strong topical steroid is often needed for eczema on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet of adults because these areas have thick skin. Patients with this type of withdrawal experience swelling, redness, burning and skin tenderness, usually within 1 to 2 weeks after stopping taking the steroid. Once the inflammation is under control, reduce or stop using the steroid as directed by your doctor. Confusing the signs and symptoms of eczema with steroid withdrawal could result in unnecessary insufficient treatment of eczema.
For these reasons, topical steroid use is limited to short periods of time under the supervision of a physician or nurse.In the United Kingdom, topical steroid preparations fall into four categories based on their strength or potency. In fact, this can lead to the use of more steroids in the long term, since inflamed skin may never fully clear up.