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Topical Steroid Withdrawal – updated joint statement

We know a lot of people with eczema worry about possible side effects of using steroid creams and ointments (called ‘topical steroids’) to treat eczema flare-ups. This includes concerns about the risks of topical steroid withdrawal (TSW), which feature widely on social media.

TSW is complex and we have so much still to learn. It’s hugely frustrating there is relatively little research into the causes, symptoms and treatments. These symptoms can be extremely painful and distressing. We have more information on topical steroid withdrawal here.

One of the many challenges is that the symptoms people experience when stopping using topical steroids can appear similar to those of untreated or poorly-controlled eczema.

National Eczema Society worked with the British Association of Dermatologists in 2021 to produce a joint position statement on TSW, in response to widespread patient concerns. We believe it is important for healthcare professional organisations and patient groups to work together to find better ways of diagnosing and supporting people with TSW.

Topical steroid withdrawal – updated joint statement

We’ve collaborated again with the British Association of Dermatologists, and also this time with the British Dermatological Nursing Group, to update the statement. The revised and expanded TSW joint statement has been published today (22 February 2024). This builds on the earlier document, setting out what we know about TSW from the latest medical information available. We have summarised the research and clinical evidence and clarified the terms used. Lots of healthcare professionals contributed to the revised joint statement, including members of the Society’s Medical Advisory Board, as well as people with eczema.

Many children and adults in the eczema community rely on topical steroids to treat eczema flare-ups. It’s very important patients and carers know how to use topical steroids safely and effectively. If you are concerned about overusing topical steroids, or of stopping using these medicines, then we advise you speak to your doctor or other healthcare professional. It is also super important for healthcare professionals to take the time to explain to their patients how to use topical steroids safely and effectively.

The UK medicines regulator, the MHRA has produced guidance on topical steroid safety National Eczema Society was pleased to contribute to the review. As you can see from the webpage, there is advice on TSW for both patients and prescribers.

National Eczema Society is calling on the MHRA to introduce clearer strength labelling of topical steroids to support the safe and effective use of these medicines. This change needs to happen and is supported by patients and healthcare professional bodies.