What can we learn and what research has been done so far into topical steroid withdrawal? It would be easy to assume there had not been any studies made into this complex condition judging by the lack of medical support and diagnosis pathways.
However as you can see, there have been quite a few, as far back as 1979! and even one in March this year!
Look how many TSW Studies
This is growing list and proves TSW is not new, but not all these studies are well respected and robust:
- Adrenal Steroids, their derivatives and Corticotropin. 1950s, Pharmacologic Aspects, Uses, and Contraindications in Dermatology. PAUL HIRSCH, M.D., Philadelphia
- ‘Steroid Addiction’, International Journal of Dermatology, 1979, Albert Kligman and Peter Fosch
- Cutaneous mast cell depletion from topical corticosteroid treatment, J Immunol, . 1985 Oct;135(4):2368-73. R M Lavker, N M Schechter
- Corticosteroid addiction and withdrawal in the atopic: the red burning skin syndrome, Clinics in Dermatology, 2003
- Serum nitric oxide levels in red patients – separating corticosteroid -addicted patients from those with chronic eczema’, Jama Dermatology, 2004
- Prevalence of atopic diseases and the use of topical corticosteroids – is there a connection?’, Medical Hypotheses, 2005
- ‘Adverse effects of topical glucocorticosteroids’, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2006, Ulrich Henngge, Thomas Ruzicka, Robert Schwartz, Michael Cork
- The red skin syndromes: corticosteroid addiction and withdrawal’, Expert Review of Dermatology, 2006, Marvin and Vicki Rapaport
- Topical corticosteroid-induced rosacea-like dermatitis: A clinical study of 110 cases’, Indian Journal of Dermatology, 2011.
- ‘Side effects of topical steroids’ – a long overdue visit, Indian Dermatology Online Journal, 2014, Arijit Coondoo, Meghna Fiske, Shyam Verma, Koushik Lahin
- Topical steroid addiction in atopic dermatitis’, Drug, Healthcare and Patient Safety, 2014
- A systematic review of topical corticosteroid withdrawal in patients with atopic dermatitis and other dermatoses’, American Academy of Dermatology, 2015
- Topical steroid addiction and withdrawal – An overview for GPs’, Australian Family Physician, Ear, Nose and Throat, 2016
- Steroid Withdrawal Effects Following Long-term Topical Corticosteroid Use’, Dermatitis, 2018
- Topical Steroid Withdrawal: A Case Series of 10 Children. 2019
- Traditional Chinese medicine for food allergy and eczema. 2020
- Topical corticosteroid withdrawal (‘steroid addiction’): an update of a systematic review. 2021
- Steroid Phobia: Is There a Basis? A Review of Topical Steroid Safety, Addiction and Withdrawal. 2021
- Topical corticosteroid withdrawal reactions. 2021
- Topical steroid withdrawal through the lens of social media. 2022
Ref – some older studies found on Eczema Life Resource Page.
I’ll admit that I’ve not managed to read all of these as most are hidden behind a pay wall but I’m working on getting old hold of copies to digest and learn from. What I have gathered from just the abstracts and anecdotal feedback from others is that none of them are peer reviewed, well respected and rigorous enough to gain respect from the industry. And therein lies the problem… what little research has been done is flawed and inadequate.
TSW Studies from 2015
A systematic review of topical corticosteroid withdrawal (“steroid addiction”) in patients with atopic dermatitis and other dermatoses.
Hajar T, Leshem YA, Hanifin JM, Nedorost ST, Lio PA, Paller AS, Block J, Simpson EL; (the National Eczema Association Task Force).J Am Acad Dermatol. 2015 Mar;72(3):541-549.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2014.11.024. Epub 2015 Jan 13.PMID: 25592622
Review. Although many of the side effects of topical corticosteroids (TCS) are addressed in guidelines, TCS addiction is not. …LIMITATIONS: Low quality of evidence, variability in the extent of data, and the lack of studies with rigorous steroid addiction methodology are …
TSW Studies from 2018
Steroid Withdrawal Effects Following Long-term Topical Corticosteroid Use.
Sheary B.Dermatitis. 2018 Jul/Aug;29(4):213-218. doi: 10.1097/DER.0000000000000387.PMID: 29923852BACKGROUND:
Concerns about topicalsteroidwithdrawal (TSW) are leading some patients to cease long-term topical corticosteroid (TCS) therapy. .
TSW studies from 2019
Topical Steroid Withdrawal: A Case Series of 10 Children.
Sheary B.Acta Derm Venereol. 2019 May 1;99(6):551-556. doi: 10.2340/00015555-3144.PMID: 30734047 Free article.
Concerns about topicalsteroidwithdrawal are causing some patients to cease long-term topical corticosteroid therapy, however, little is known about the ensuing clinical outcomes. This qualitative case series studied 10 children whose parents stopped …
TSW Studies from 2021
Topical corticosteroid withdrawal (‘steroid addiction’): an update of a systematic review.
Hwang J, Lio PA.J Dermatolog Treat. 2021 Feb 4:1-6. doi: 10.1080/09546634.2021.1882659. Online ahead of print.PMID: 33499686
BACKGROUND: Topical corticosteroid withdrawal is an entity associated with chronic steroid use and misuse that has not been fully described. …METHODS: We searched Ovid Medline, Pubmed, and Cochrane library for terms related to topical corticosteroid …
Steroid Phobia: Is There a Basis? A Review of Topical Steroid Safety, Addiction and Withdrawal.
Tan SY, Chandran NS, Choi EC.Clin Drug Investig. 2021 Oct;41(10):835-842. doi: 10.1007/s40261-021-01072-z. Epub 2021 Aug 18.PMID: 34409577 Free PMC article.
Review. There is a growing concern amongst patients about topical corticosteroid (TCS) side effects, with increasing discussion of topicalsteroid addiction (TSA) and topicalsteroidwithdrawal (TSW) particularly on social media platforms. …
Topical corticosteroid withdrawal reactions.
[No authors listed]Drug Ther Bull. 2021 Dec;59(12):184. doi: 10.1136/dtb.2021.000062.PMID: 34824131
Overview of: Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. Topical corticosteroids: information on the risk of topicalsteroidwithdrawal reactions. …
This study is interesting as it’s the only one looking at possible treatments for the condition, rather that just observing the symptoms.
Traditional Chinese medicine for food allergy and eczema.
Wang Z, Wang ZZ, Geliebter J, Tiwari R, Li XM.Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2021 Jun;126(6):639-654. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2020.12.002. Epub 2020 Dec 10.PMID: 33310179
Review. Triple TCM therapy including ingestion, bath, and cream markedly improved skin lesion, itching, and sleep loss in patients with corticosteroid dependent, recalcitrant, or topicalsteroidwithdrawal. Xiao Feng San and Japanese and Korean formulas were found to …
TSW studies from 2022
Guys this report just show how much of a difference we are all making by sharing our journey. Not only are we helping each other and getting the word out there, but we also sparked this review by dermatologists. They reported a 288% increase in number of mentions and a 592% increase in performance of #topicalsteroidwithdrawal
I’d love to read this one in full but I don’t have access to read it.
Topical steroid withdrawal through the lens of social media.
Bowe S, Masterson S, Murray G, Haugh I.Clin Exp Dermatol. 2022 Mar 26. doi: 10.1111/ced.15194. Online ahead of print.PMID: 35340034
BACKGROUND: The term topicalsteroidwithdrawal (TSW) describes an adverse effect that generally occurs with inappropriate prolonged use of high-potency topical corticosteroids (TCS). The presence of user-generated content relating to TSW on social media has not been well defined to date.
Results: Across all social media platforms there was a 274% increase in mentions of the hashtag #topicalsteroidwithdrawal in the year 2020(7992) compared with the year 2016(2138). Top associated hashtags included #TSW, #eczema, and #topicalsteroidaddiction. On Instagram, we found a 288% increase in number of mentions and a 592% increase in performance of #topicalsteroidwithdrawal in 2020(618,354) when compared to 2016(89,390).
Conclusion: Our results confirm an increase in the presence of user-generated content relating to TSW on social media and also highlight its extent. Large numbers of patients are exposed to this content which could influence their engagement with TCS.
Further research resources
If you are interested in doing further reading around this subject, check out the following:
- Sasha, a wonderful fellow TSW warrior’s blog – sashibot.com/research where you may also find the articles mentioned above in full.
- My Topical Steroid Withdrawal – Frequently asked questions
- Karen Fischer’s Review of Topical Steroid Withdrawal studies
Why aren’t doctors and dermatologists reading these studies?
It’s interesting to see studies being done as long ago as 2015, even if these are not as rigorous as required. It would be easy to assume there hadn’t been any studies at all if you spoke to most dermatologists in the UK. Are dermatologists reading them? And if they’re not, why not? Are they printed in unpopular journals?
I will be sending this blog to my dermatologist to read and asking for his feedback. I’d love it if you could all do the same? Let’s love bomb our derms with TSW content.
Even if you don’t have an appointment, your dermatologist or GP will have an email address you can contact them on. If we don’t tell them about this stuff, who else will?
And would any dermatologists like to comment below? We would just all love to talk about TSW with you, more than anything. To just feel seen, understood, heard and respected and to get a diagnosis that we are not going mad would do so much good.
Why is this so hard?
The biggest study of all – Every person going through TSW
I really feel like every one of us going through TSW today are taking part on one huge, massive, horrible experiment. A scientific study with no guidance, no support, no monitoring! So I would urge every dermatologist reading this, don’t just discharge us because we are refusing the immune supressing treatments you are offering, instead engage with us, see what natural treatments you can help with and observe this process with us. Because what if we’re right?
Does your dermatologist diagnose TSW?
I’m looking for dermatologists who are actually diagnosing TSW. Are there any anywhere? Do they exist? And I’m not talking about Dr Rappaport in America charging over $500 for a zoom consultation.
I’d love to hear your feedback on this if you’re an eczema or TSW person. Did you know about these studies? Does it help you feel more understood and give you some hope? Or do we thing these studies are lying unread and dusty in some locked cupboard somewhere?