Clinical dose and adverse effects of topical steroids in daily management of atopic dermatitis

Br J Dermatol. 2003 Jan;148(1):128-33. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2133.2003.04934.x.


Background: Topical steroids are used as the first-line therapy for atopic dermatitis.

Objectives: To determine the clinical doses of topical steroids for the daily treatment of atopic dermatitis in clinics and to elucidate their adverse effects.

Patients and methods: A multicentre retrospective analysis of a series of 1271 patients (210 infants, 546 children, and 515 adolescents and adults) with atopic dermatitis.

Results: Less than 89.5 g, 135 g and 304 g of topical steroid were applied in 90% of the patients in the infant, childhood, and adolescent and adult AD groups, respectively, on the entire body during the 6-month treatment period. The majority of patients were controlled well; however, 7% of infant, 10% of childhood and 19% of adolescent and adult patients remained in a very severe or severe state or experienced exacerbation even though they applied larger amounts of topical steroids. With regard to adverse effects, the incidence of telangiectasia on cheeks tended to increase in patients who had a longer duration of disease and who applied more than 20 g to the face during the 6-month treatment period. The steroid-induced atrophy of the antecubital and popliteal fossae was more frequently observed in males than in females.

Conclusions: Topical steroids are useful for treating atopic dermatitis, but a substantial percentage of patients cannot be satisfactorily treated with topical steroids. For such patients, adjustments of dose and rank of topical steroids and other therapeutic adjuncts are necessary.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / adverse effects
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / drug therapy*
  • Dermatologic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Dermatologic Agents / adverse effects
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Eruptions / etiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Glucocorticoids