NYMC Faculty Publications

Steroid Phobia: A Review of Prevalence, Risk Factors, and Interventions

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American Journal of Clinical Dermatology

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Topical corticosteroid phobia may lead to poor adherence, resulting in persistent disease and escalation to systemic agents. The aim of this paper was to review current literature to assess topical steroid phobia prevalence, populations most at risk, reasons behind steroid phobia, and interventions to reduce it. A systematic search of PubMed, Ovid (Journals@Ovid, MEDLINE), ScienceDirect, and Web of Science was performed. Studies ranged from May 2000 to February 2021. In total, 37 articles met the inclusion criteria. There was inter-study variation in the way steroid phobia is defined, from concern to irrational fear. The worldwide prevalence of topical steroid phobia ranges from 31 to 95.7% and does not differ with patient race/ethnicity or dermatological condition. Female patients and caregivers, and those who have experienced side effects of topical corticosteroids are most likely to express steroid phobia. Reasons for steroid phobia include lack of education, fear of side effects, polypharmacy, misinformation, negative experience with topical steroids, and frequently changing of clinics. Successful interventions to address steroid phobia include patient education in the form of educational videos followed by individualized oral education based on concerns, and demonstrations of application of topical steroids. Multiple interventions address topical corticosteroid phobia and improve adherence of topical corticosteroids in the management of dermatological conditions. Providers should screen patients for steroid phobia, especially in populations particularly at risk. Interventions using patient education should be individualized based on concerns expressed during screening. Further research should investigate if reducing steroid phobia can in fact improve long-term adherence.