People with common skin cream in bathroom 'risk life-threatening complication'

UK households with a common skin cream could be at risk of a life-threatening complication, a study has warned. Patients who lather on topical steroids are at risk of adrenal suppression, according to the UK medicine's watchdog.

Topical steroids will be labelled differently to warn people of the risks. The condition, also called Addison's disease, happens when the gland responsible for producing the essential hormones cortisol and aldosterone gets damaged.

It can arise from "overuse of topical steroids" and is "life-threatening" and "needs urgent treatment”, the Medicines Healthcare and Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said. The UKHSA said: "Topical steroid products are safe and highly effective treatments for the management of a wide range of inflammatory skin diseases but have important risks, especially with prolonged use at high potency. In the coming months, as a result of regulatory action, topical steroid products will be labelled with information on their potency to simplify advice for patients."

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Addison's disease is a rare illness affecting the adrenal glands, and damages the gland and prevents it from producing enough of either of the hormones. Symptoms include fatigue, muscle weakness, low mood, loss of appetite or unintentional weight loss and increased thirst.

Other signs are dizziness, fainting, cramps and exhaustion. About 10.5million tubes of topical steroids are prescribed each year and 267 people reported reactions similar to topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) over the last two years, the government has warned.

Symptoms of TSW can include intense redness, stinging, and burning of the skin that can spread beyond the initial treatment area. The risk of these and other serious reactions increases with prolonged use of higher potency steroid products.

Over the coming year, topical steroids will be labelled with information on their potency to assist with counselling patients. Healthcare professionals, patients, and caregivers are asked to submit reports using the Yellow Card scheme electronically.