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What Is Betamethasone?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Betamethasone is a steroid medication a doctor may prescribe for the treatment of certain skin conditions as well as the management of premature infants. It is in the glucocorticoid class of steroids and is an example of a moderate glucocorticoid. This drug is usually in stock at pharmacies, and it should be possible to fill a prescription for it on the same day. Hospitals also stock it for treatment of patients on their premises.

This medication boosts the levels of steroids normally produced by the adrenal gland. It acts as an anti-inflammatory to suppress the development of inflammation, and also tends to depress the immune system. In the case of skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, betamethasone can be useful for the treatment of itching. The doctor will prescribe it as a topical cream. This allows the patient to take an extremely low dose and limit side effects.

To use this medication to treat itching, the patient should first gently wash and dry the skin, unless this is extremely irritating or painful. Next, she can apply a thin film of the medication and allow it to soak in. The patient should wash her hands thoroughly after use, or use an applicator. The skin should clear up with regular betamethasone applications. If it becomes worse, the patient should discuss the situation with a doctor.

In pregnancy complications where a doctor fears that a patient may deliver prematurely, he can recommend a betamethasone injection to promote fetal lung development. Given 24 to 48 hours before delivery, this medication can radically increase the chances of survival. It will stimulate the rapid maturation of the lungs inside the fetus, reducing many of the risks associated with premature delivery. If this medication is not available or unsuitable for a patient, the doctor can pursue alternative choices.

Some patients are allergic to betamethasone and will react adversely to it. Others may not have immediate side effects, but could experience health problems because of the immune suppression. It is important to avoid sources of infection while taking the medication, and to avoid long term use. Patients who experience chronic skin problems may need to switch to a different medication and explore some alternative skin care options to meet their needs, as the immunocompromise could put them at risk of serious illnesses. For safety, a doctor may stop prescribing the medication in a patient with a history of illness and extended betamethasone use.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By honeybees — On Mar 09, 2012

@Mykol - You are fortunate you didn't have any problems with this medication. I was given some betamethasone dipropionate ointment, but had an allergic reaction to it.

I don't know what was worse, the itching and redness before applying the cream or what it felt like after I had been applying it for a few days.

My doctor ended up giving me something else that worked and that I didn't have a reaction to. She told me she has seen this before in patients.

Because our immune system is kind of messed up anyway, some people have reactions to the medicated creams and ointments they are given. I was just thankful I had other options to choose from to clear up my psoriasis.

By Mykol — On Mar 08, 2012

I kept getting eczema outbreaks and had a hard time finding something that would clear it up. It was uncomfortable and embarrassing to have these red, itchy patches show up on my skin.

I never knew where these would show up and had them on my neck, face and upper arms. The itching would drive me crazy, but it didn't help at all.

Finally I was given some betamethasone cream and this was what I needed. I started out slowly and didn't see immediate results. After about three weeks, there was a huge improvement and after a month, it was completely gone.

If I start to get another outbreak, I will immediately put some of this cream on and it keeps it from spreading and getting worse.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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