Corticosteroid medications, also called steroids or glucocorticosteroids , are their own class of medication. They are available under dozens of brand names as oral, inhaled and topical treatments and include cortisone, hydrocortisone and prednisone. They are used to treat a wide variety of inflammatory conditions.
Corticosteroids work by mimicking the effects of hormones, such as cortisol, that are produced by your adrenal glands. Specifically, they are absorbed into your skin cells and stop those cells from producing chemicals which cause inflammation and allergic reactions, chemicals which are normally released when the skin encounters allergens or an irritant of some kind.
When taken at doses that exceed the levels produced by your body, corticosteroids suppress inflammation in conditions including atopic dermatitis and psoriasis. Corticosteroids are also effective in relieving itch.
There are seven classes of corticosteroids, ranking from class one (superpotent) to class seven (low potency) currently available, according to a new US-American potency ranking. In Europe, corticosteroids are classed into four categories, low potency to very strong potency. Topical corticosteroids available for the treatment of psoriasis come in cream, oil, gel, foam and tape preparations, and all have specific uses. Side effects can include red lesions and acne. Long term or prolonged use can cause thinning of the skin.