The most common side effect of topical corticosteroid use is skin atrophy. All topical steroids can induce atrophy, but higher potency steroids, occlusion, thinner skin, and older patient age increase the risk. The face, the backs of the hands, and intertriginous areas are particularly susceptible. Resolution often occurs after discontinuing use of these agents, but it may take months. Concurrent use of topical tretinoin (Retin-A) % may reduce the incidence of atrophy from chronic steroid applications. 30 Other side effects from topical steroids include permanent dermal atrophy, telangiectasia, and striae.
Glucocorticoid therapy is associated with an appreciable risk of bone loss, which is most pronounced in the first few months of use. In addition, glucocorticoids increase fracture risk, and fractures occur at higher bone mineral density (BMD) values than occur in postmenopausal osteoporosis. The increased risk of fracture has been reported with doses of prednisone or its equivalent as low as to mg daily [ 1 ]. Thus, glucocorticoid-induced bone loss should be treated aggressively, particularly in those already at high risk for fracture (older age, prior fragility fracture). In other individuals, clinical risk factor and bone density assessment may help guide therapy. The prevention and treatment of glucocorticoid-induced bone loss will be reviewed here. The clinical features are reviewed separately. (See "Clinical features and evaluation of glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis" .)
Steroid diabetes must be distinguished from stress hyperglycemia , hyperglycemia due to excessive intravenous glucose, or new-onset diabetes of another type. Because it is not unusual for steroid treatment to precipitate type 1 or type 2 diabetes in a person who is already in the process of developing it, it is not always possible to determine whether apparent steroid diabetes will be permanent or will go away when the steroids are finished. More commonly undiagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes are brought to clinical attention with corticosteroid treatment because subclinical hyperglycemia worsens and becomes symptomatic. Generally, steroid diabetes without preexisting type 2 diabetes will resolve upon termination of corticosteroid administration.