Clobetasol is propionate is a synthetic corticosteroid that is used in various forms, including gels, creams and ointments. It is commonly prescribed for relief from psoriasis, eczema and some forms of contact dermatitis, like poison ivy or oak.
A corticosteroid is a synthetic drug that mimics cortisol, a natural human hormone. One of the most commonly known steroids (short for corticosteroid) is prednisone.
Simplistically, steroids help with inflammation when our natural defenses just don’t work well enough to take care of the problem we’re trying to address.
Clobetasol is a very potent steroid and is for topical use only. It is a Class 1 corticosteroid, which is defined as Super Potent. The classification system goes through Class 7, or Least Potent. In addition to ointment, clobetasol is found in gels, creams, shampoo (for alopecia) and most recently, a foam spray.
Approved since the 1980s, Clobetasol ointment has helped those who suffer from various forms of psoriasis and eczema as well as dermatitis and some allergic reactions.
How Does it Work?
When the dose of a steroid is greater than the hormones your body generates normally, it can subdue inflammation. Steroids also can have a suppressive effect on the immune system and prevent the body from mistakenly attacking itself.
The topical use of clobetasol ointment helps with the inflammation and itching of various skin complaints.
Where Do I Get it?
As a very strong steroid, Clobetasol is available by prescription only. It is sold under a myriad of brand names, including Clobex, Clovate, Cormax, Pentasol, Temovate and Olux. This is a partial list; there are others and generic preparations as well.
While commonly connected with psoriasis and eczema, clobetasol may be prescribed for other types of dermatitis, allergies and rashes, like poison ivy and oak. It helps with the redness, itching and swelling common to these skin conditions.
What Do I Need to Know?
Like many strong and effective drugs, safe and proper use of clobetasol ointment is critical. First, it is strictly topical. It is to be applied to the affected skin as directed. Because of its potency, clobetasol is seldom prescribed for a course of treatment exceeding two weeks.
Clobetasol should not be used on infected or broken skin, should be applied to clean, dry skin and hands should be washed immediately after application.
Do not use other lotions or ointments over the area where clobetasol is applied for at least 30 minutes or as directed by your prescriber.
Don’t use your ointment more often than prescribed or for a longer period than prescribed.
Do not cover the area of application with a bandage as it may increase the risk of over-absorption.
Apply in a thin layer only to the affected area. Do not use “leftover” ointment as a moisturizer or lotion.
Clobetasol should not be used by pregnant women, women who expect to become pregnant or nursing mothers. Pediatric use is not approved for children under 12, though this may differ for some of the clobetasol gel and lotion treatments.
Common Side Effects
The area of application may sting, burn, become red or itchy during the first day or so of use. As your body becomes accustomed to this new medicine, these symptoms should abate. If not, or if things get worse, contact your prescriber.
More serious side effects can include skin discoloration, acne, unusual hair growth, skin bumps or even stretch marks.
As a topical ointment, the goal is to keep it out of the bloodstream. Be sure not to get it into mouth or eyes or inside the nose. Occasionally the ointment may be absorbed into the bloodstream, and this can lead to some unwelcome side effects.
Watch for extreme fatigue, swelling in feet or ankles, vision difficulties, change in thirst and frequency of urination.
Rarer, But Serious, Side Effects
Absorption of too much clobetasol into the blood stream can be dangerous. One risk is “HPA Axis Suppression”. The HPA Axis is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system. The explanation of how this system works is far too complex for this article. If the system is suppressed the hormonal and nervous system are affected as is your ability to deal with stress and fatigue.
Another severe side effect can be Cushing syndrome. Symptoms include weight gain, unusual hair growth, “moonface”, fatigue and mental changes.
Your physician can conduct lab tests to determine whether or not you’re affected. If so, the solution is to stop the use of the steroid under doctor’s supervision.
It’s important to never use clobetasol ointment with any other type of steroid at the same time. Be sure to let your doctor know about all the medications and supplements you are taking.
Store your clobetasol ointment at room temperature in the original container and out of children’s reach. Throw out any unused portion or outdated prescription. Please, ask your pharmacist about proper disposal options. Our water sources are no place to “store” unused medications.
When using a medication as strong as clobetasol, it is important to keep all follow up appointments with your practitioner.
Never let anyone else use your medication and don’t combine your ointment with other cosmetics, skin ointments or sun screens.
If you forget a dose, and it’s not too long after you should have applied it, go ahead and do so. If you don’t recall until it’s close to time for the next dose, do not apply. Skip the one dose and continue on as scheduled.
Resist the temptation to apply more ointment to make up for a missed dose.
If you have uncomfortable or unsightly skin challenges, Clobetasol ointment can be life changing. Not only can it improve appearance but can help with itching and discomfort.
Though typically used for short courses of treatment, it can be prescribed periodically to help keep symptoms under control.
The side effects can be off-putting, but with proper use and monitoring, your risk will be minimized.
Whether your physician feels that the gel, lotion, ointment, shampoo or spray is best for you, there is relief available for many skin disorders.
Check with your doctor and discuss your options.