When eczema is under control then only moisturisers (emollients) need to be used. However, when the skin becomes inflamed, a steroid treatment may be necessary. Steroids help to reduce inflammation and itching. Your GP or dermatologist will recommend a suitable steroid treatment programme. It is important for you to be carefully monitored whilst taking steroids for any length of time.

There are two types of steroids, topical and oral:


ccTopical steroids, also referred to as corticosteroids, are widely used to treat skin conditions such as eczema. This form of treatment has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin and comes in the form of lotions, creams, ointments and solutions in different strengths depending upon the severity of the skin disease.For mild to moderate eczema, in the first instance, a topical steroid therapy is used. Topical hydrocortisone is often prescribed and is a low strength.

Creams are more suitable to treat moist or weeping areas of the skin.

Ointments are usually best to treat areas of the skin which are dry or thickened.

Lotions may be useful to treat hairy areas such as the scalp.

Your GP will prescribe the strength of steroid he/she feels is appropriate, and may need to prescribe stronger steroids if the eczema is moderate to severe.


Oral (taken by mouth as either pills or a liquid), or injected forms of corticosteroids are usually only prescribed if the patients’ eczema is severe or if topical treatments have not worked.

You must discuss treatment options with your GP and/or dermatologist to find a solution that is right for you.

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. Our evidence-based articles are certified by the Information Standard and our sources are available on request. The content is not, though, written by medical professionals and should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands, or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 29 August 2017

Next review: 29 August 2020