Medical News Today: What to know about betamethasone

Betamethasone is a corticosteroid that doctors use to treat skin conditions that cause inflammation and itchiness. People can use injectable or topical betamethasone.

Betamethasone is available in different formulations, which range in potency from medium to super potent. Doctors will choose the most suitable betamethasone product for a person depending on their skin condition and the area of the body that it is affecting.

Keep reading to learn more about betamethasone types, uses, and side effects.

What is betamethasone?

Betamethasone is a type of steroid called a corticosteroid. It is available in two different forms: injectable and topical.

The following table lists the different forms of betamethasone along with their doses in milligrams per milliliter (mg/ml) or percent.


Types and uses

man applying betamethasone ointment
Doctors may prescribe betamethasone to treat various skin conditions.

Depending on its form, doctors will prescribe betamethasone for a variety of reasons.

Among other indications, people can receive injectable betamethasone to control:

Betamethasone is also available as a cream, foam, spray, lotion, and ointment. A doctor will prescribe one of these five formulations depending on the affected area of the body and the type of skin condition.

The following table lists the pros and cons of ointments, creams, and foams.

Doctors classify topical steroids by both their formulation and the strength of the active ingredient.

As some corticosteroids are stronger than others, doctors classify these drugs into seven classes according to their strength. The classes range from I to VII, where class I is the strongest and class VII is the weakest.

Betamethasone dipropionate is a stronger corticosteroid than betamethasone valerate:

Doctors will use betamethasone to treat various skin conditions that cause inflammation and itchiness. They will recommend betamethasone dipropionate spray for plaque psoriasis in people 18 years and older but will prescribe lotions for skin conditions that affect hairy areas of the body, including the scalp.

People typically use betamethasone aerosol foam to treat skin conditions of the scalp.


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How does betamethasone work?

Betamethasone works in a variety of ways following its injection or application to the skin. It has anti-inflammatory activity and can suppress the immune system. Corticosteroids can also stop skin cells from growing and multiplying.


How to use and dosage

People use betamethasone in different ways depending on the type. A person should ask their doctor or pharmacist for specific instructions.

Injection

Doctors will determine the correct dosage of injectable betamethasone depending on the condition that they are treating.

Creams and lotions

People can apply a few drops of betamethasone dipropionate or betamethasone valerate lotion to the affected area once or twice a day. Usually, doctors prescribe this product for use on hairy areas of the body.

People should apply just a thin layer of betamethasone creams and ointments.

Doctors recommend using betamethasone dipropionate only once or twice daily, but people can use betamethasone valerate up to three times daily.

Spray

Doctors can prescribe Sernivo spray for up to 4 weeks. According to the directions, people should apply the spray to the affected area twice daily and rub it in gently.

Foam

People use Luxiq on their scalps twice a day. The foam will melt once it comes into contact with a warm surface, so people cannot apply this product directly onto their hands.

Instead, doctors instruct people to apply a small amount of Luxiq to a cold surface. From there, they can pick up a small amount with their fingers and gently massage it into the affected area of skin.

Side effects

woman scratching arm
Betamethasone may cause itching or redness of the skin.

When doctors administer betamethasone injections, people may report a range of side effects that affect different parts of the body, including the:

  • immune system
  • cardiovascular system
  • skin
  • endocrine system
  • abdominal tract
  • muscles and bones
  • central and peripheral nervous system
  • eyes

People may also report side effects when using betamethasone lotion or ointment on their skin. The most common side effects that people report include:

  • redness of the skin
  • inflammation of the hair follicles
  • itchiness
  • blistering of the skin

Betamethasone dipropionate cream is a weaker corticosteroid than the ointment, and people report fewer side effects. In a study of 242 adults using betamethasone dipropionate cream, only one person experienced an adverse effect, which was a stinging sensation.

Burning and stinging of the skin can also occur when people use betamethasone valerate aerosol foam.

When people use betamethasone dipropionate spray, the most common side effects are:

  • itchiness
  • burning or stinging
  • pain
  • thinning of the skin

Rarely, people who use betamethasone valerate products may experience localized side effects on the area where they applied the product. These may include:

  • burning
  • itchiness
  • irritation
  • dryness
  • inflammation of the hair follicles
  • excessive hair growth
  • acne-like eruptions on the skin
  • lightening of the skin
  • rash
  • softening or breaking down of the skin
  • infections
  • thinning of the skin
  • the appearance of stretch marks
  • heat rash


Warnings and risks

Anyone who has a history of allergic reactions to betamethasone or any ingredient in betamethasone injections should avoid this treatment.

When prescribing topical betamethasone, doctors should not give this treatment to any person with a history of allergic reactions to betamethasone or any other corticosteroid.

In rare cases, a person who uses corticosteroids on their skin may experience hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis suppression and adrenal insufficiency.

The HPA axis produces steroids that control and regulate many body functions. When people use corticosteroids, the body may stop producing steroids. As a result, the adrenal glands may shrink and stop working properly.

Although HPA suppression is rare, it is more common if a person:

  • uses a high potency corticosteroid
  • applies the product to a large area of the skin
  • uses the product for a prolonged period

When people use betamethasone appropriately, they will rarely experience this serious side effect.

Young children are more susceptible to HPA axis suppression because of their larger skin surface to body weight ratio.

Interactions

Betamethasone injections can interact with many drugs.

Before administering betamethasone injections, doctors must thoroughly check the person’s medication history to ensure that the treatment is safe for them.


Pregnancy

There are no data available on the safety of using betamethasone topically during pregnancy. Doctors will only prescribe betamethasone skin products during pregnancy if the benefits of use outweigh the possible risks.


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Cost

The following table compares the prices of betamethasone topical products.


Summary

Betamethasone is an effective anti-inflammatory treatment that doctors prescribe in injectable and topical forms.

There are many topical options that people can use to treat skin conditions that cause inflammation and redness.

People use each of the different forms of betamethasone differently, and some products are expensive.

When people use betamethasone appropriately, they generally tolerate it well.

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