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Systemic absorption of topical corticosteroids can produce reversible hypothalamic-pituitaryadrenal (HPA) axis suppression with the potential for clinical glucocorticosteroid insufficiency. This may occur during treatment or upon withdrawal of the topical corticosteroid.
Because of the potential for systemic absorption, use of topical corticosteroids may require that patients be periodically evaluated for HPA axis suppression. Factors that predispose a patient using a topical corticosteroid to HPA axis suppression include the use of more potent steroids, use over large surface areas, use over prolonged periods, use under occlusion, use on an altered skin barrier, and use in patients with liver failure.
An ACTH stimulation test may be helpful in evaluating patients for HPA axis suppression. If HPA axis suppression is documented, an attempt should be made to gradually withdraw the drug, to reduce the frequency of application, or to substitute a less potent steroid. Manifestations of adrenal insufficiency may require supplemental systemic corticosteroids. Recovery of HPA axis function is generally prompt and complete upon discontinuation of topical corticosteroids.
Cushing's syndrome, hyperglycemia, and unmasking of latent diabetes mellitus can also result from systemic absorption of topical corticosteroids.
Use of more than one corticosteroid-containing product at the same time may increase the total systemic corticosteroid exposure.
Pediatric patients may be more susceptible to systemic toxicity from use of topical corticosteroids.
Local Adverse Reactions with Topical Corticosteroids
Local adverse reactions may be more likely to occur with occlusive use, prolonged use or use of higher potency corticosteroids. Reactions may include atrophy, striae, telangiectasias, burning, itching, irritation, dryness, folliculitis, acneiform eruptions, hypopigmentation, perioral dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, secondary infection, and miliaria. Some local adverse reactions may be irreversible.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis with Topical Corticosteroids
Allergic contact dermatitis to any component of topical corticosteroids is usually diagnosed by a failure to heal rather than a clinical exacerbation. Clinical diagnosis of allergic contact dermatitis can be confirmed by patch testing.
Concomitant Skin Infections
Concomitant skin infections should be treated with an appropriate antimicrobial agent. If the infection persists, Topicort® (desoximetasone) Ointment USP, 0.05% should be discontinued until the infection has been adequately treated.
The following tests may be helpful in evaluating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis suppression:
- Urinary free cortisol test
- ACTH stimulation test
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, and Impairment of Fertility
Long-term animal studies have not been performed to evaluate the carcinogenic potential or the effect on fertility of topical corticosteroids. Desoximetasone was nonmutagenic in the Ames test.
Teratogenic Effects. Pregnancy Category C
Corticosteroids have been shown to be teratogenic in laboratory animals when administered systemically at relatively low dosage levels. Some corticosteroids have been shown to be teratogenic after dermal application in laboratory animals.
Desoximetasone has been shown to be teratogenic and embryotoxic in mice, rats, and rabbits when given by subcutaneous or dermal routes of administration in doses 15 to 150 times the human dose of Topicort® (desoximetasone) Ointment USP, 0.05%.
There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women on teratogenic effects from topically applied corticosteroids. Therefore, Topicort® (desoximetasone) Ointment USP, 0.05% should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus. Drugs of this class should not be used extensively on pregnant patients, in large amounts, or for prolonged periods of time.
It is not known whether topical administration of corticosteroids could result in sufficient systemic absorption to produce detectable quantities in breast milk. Systemically administered corticosteroids are secreted into breast milk in quantities not likely to have a deleterious effect on the infant. Nevertheless, caution should be exercised when topical corticosteroids are administered to a nursing woman.
Pediatric patients may demonstrate greater susceptibility to topical corticosteroid- induced HPA axis suppression and Cushing's syndrome than mature patients because of a larger skin surface area to body weight ratio.
Hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis suppression, Cushing's syndrome, and intracranial hypertension have been reported in pediatric patients receiving topical corticosteroids. Manifestations of adrenal suppression in pediatric patients include linear growth retardation, delayed weight gain, low plasma cortisol levels, and absence of response to ACTH stimulation. Manifestations of intracranial hypertension include bulging fontanelles, headaches, and bilateral papilledema.
Administration of topical corticosteroids to pediatric patients should be limited to the least amount compatible with an effective therapeutic regimen. Chronic corticosteroid therapy may interfere with the growth and development of pediatric patients.
Last reviewed on RxList: 6/14/2010
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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