Many of the medications used for skin problems are made of steroids. These steroids vary in their strengths – from being very mild to extremely potent. These meds are always used under the supervision and guidance of a qualified clinical practitioner or a dermatologist. In this milieu, drugs like hydrocortisone, clobetasol propionate, etc. are widely used to treat skin infections or other allied problems. Hydrocortisone belongs to a mild form of steroids (known as corticosteroids) while clobetasol propionate is a highly potent form. It is essential to understand the differences between these two drugs.

Skin conditions need to be treated as and when they show up. If left untreated, these conditions may turn into serious problems. Most common ailments that can affect your skin are rashes, inflammation or swelling, itchiness and drying. Incidence of risks such as insect bites, microbial infections and diseases like psoriasis, eczema, etc. primarily show up on your skin’s surface.

What is hydrocortisone?

This medication is a steroid which is categorized under corticosteroids; this is a milder form of steroid belonging to this genre of drugs. It is used for treating several skin conditions including rashes, swelling, eczema, psoriasis (faster multiplication of skin cells), insect bites, skin allergies as well as itchiness. This drug mainly helps decrease itchiness, redness of skin as well as inflammation. It is important to follow the instructions of your treating doctor or dermatologist while applying this topical med. Never use this drug on facial parts or folds of skin (such as armpits).

The dosage of this med depends on your age, severity of your skin condition as well as pre-existence of other ailments. It is not a safe practice to cover the damaged part of skin with a bandage or a wrap. Also, soon after applying this topical med, never wear clothes / garments with a tighter fit. Remember to wash your hands soon after using the cream / ointment form of this drug. Those who left it unwashed experienced a numbing feeling on their fingers. Also, soon after applying this med, never wash the affected area; such actions may diminish the treatment capability of this drug.

This drug is unlikely to cause serious side effects; however, a few minor discomforts such as redness of skin, dry skin, milder irritation, a burning feeling or abnormal growth of hair are common. In some one-off instances, marks on skin or thinning as well as discoloration of skin have also shown up. Most of these discomforts may vanish on their own once your body gets used to its active ingredients. But, if they do not go away and are found to persist for a week or more, you need to consult with your doctor without much delay.

What is clobetasol?

Clobetasol is also a commonly used med to treat skin problems. Like hydrocortisone, this drug is also a corticosteroid. The key difference between these two drugs is – clobetasol is a very powerful corticosteroid while hydrocortisone is a mild steroid. Due to its high potency, clobetasol is never used on sensitive areas like anal regions, near the genitals or creases of skin. For example, never apply it on groin, face or armpits. It is very important to never bring it closer to your eyes. People who take it near their eyes developed serious ocular conditions like glaucoma.

In general, this topical med must be used sparingly – strictly as per the advice of your caregiving team. Your doctor may tell you to apply only a thinner film of this cream on the affected part. Soon after application, it is a good practice to rub it in a gentle manner. The standard medication plan never exceeds beyond 2 weeks (or, beyond 15 days). As the power of steroid used in clobetasol is quite high, never use more than 45 grams (g) of this cream within one week (7 days). If your skin condition does not change after using the med for more than 10 days, you need to talk to your treating doctor without any delay.

Commonly witnessed side effects or discomforts related to the use of clobetasol are dryness, itchiness, burning sensation and swelling at the area where the cream is applied. The good news however is – these unwanted reactions may disappear upon using it for 2 to 3 days. But, if these unwanted reactions continue for long, consult with your caregiving team on an emergency basis.

Precautions associated with both drugs

Excessive use of these skin meds may result in thinning of the skin, acne, discoloration or reddening of skin. Its active ingredients may get mixed up with blood; however, it may occur in some remote instances. If you witness acute side effects like severe or frequent spells of headache, incessant feeling of thirstiness, being tired almost at all times, blurred vision and a marked drop in weight, your treating doctor needs to be informed of such acute conditions.

Last but not least, the effects of these drugs – i.e., hydrocortisone and clobetasol – are not fully evidenced on breastfeeding women as well as pregnant women. As the active chemicals of this drug may get into mother’s milk, women who are nursing their newly born infant must stay away from applying this. Women who are pregnant must be additionally cautious while using this skin med.

Above all, you need to remember that the side effects or discomforts listed here are not a full list of possible adverse reactions. Hence, you may –at times – notice a few unlisted as well as unknown side effects. Upon witnessing any such side effects, it is highly recommended to take clinical support on an urgent mode. If you are a Canadian resident, you need go to a poison control center or call Health Canada as quickly as you possibly can. If you are a resident of US, call FDA’s helpline or reach out to 911 for immediate support in a healthcare setting.

In sum, hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid and is categorized as a mild form of steroid. On the other hand, clobetasol is a highly potent corticosteroid; due to this, your medication plan never exceeds beyond 15 days. Also, you must not apply more than 45 grams (g) within a span of 7 days. However, whether you are using hydrocortisone or clobetasol, if no marked change occurs to your skin condition in 10 days’ time, it is time to consult with your dermatologist soon.

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