A systematic review of topical corticosteroid withdrawal ("steroid addiction") in patients with atopic dermatitis and other dermatoses

Tamar Hajar, Yael A. Leshem, Jon M. Hanifin, Susan T. Nedorost, Peter A. Lio, Amy S. Paller, Julie Block, Eric L. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

54 Scopus citations


Background The National Eczema Association has received increasing numbers of patient inquiries regarding "steroid addiction syndrome," coinciding with the growing presence of social media dedicated to this topic. Although many of the side effects of topical corticosteroids (TCS) are addressed in guidelines, TCS addiction is not. Objective We sought to assess the current evidence regarding addiction/withdrawal. Methods We performed a systematic review of the current literature. Results Our initial search yielded 294 results with 34 studies meeting inclusion criteria. TCS withdrawal was reported mostly on the face and genital area (99.3%) of women (81.0%) primarily in the setting of long-term inappropriate use of potent TCS. Burning and stinging were the most frequently reported symptoms (65.5%) with erythema being the most common sign (92.3%). TCS withdrawal syndrome can be divided into papulopustular and erythematoedematous subtypes, with the latter presenting with more burning and edema. Limitations Low quality of evidence, variability in the extent of data, and the lack of studies with rigorous steroid addiction methodology are limitations. Conclusions TCS withdrawal is likely a distinct clinical adverse effect of TCS misuse. Patients and providers should be aware of its clinical presentation and risk factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-549.e2
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Dermatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015



  • atopic dermatitis
  • pruritus
  • red face
  • side effects
  • steroid addiction
  • topical corticosteroid withdrawal
  • topical corticosteroids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology

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