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What is Hydrocortisone?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Hydrocortisone is steroid hormone that is necessary in a number of bodily functions, especially in the proper absorption and use of carbohydrates. The hormone is also important to maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. Along with the natural hormone that is produced in the adrenal cortex, it is also possible to utilize synthetic supplements in order to treat several different medical conditions. The hormone is also found in a number of over-the-counter medications developed to alleviate muscle pain and inflammation.

Many people make use of hydrocortisone cream or lotion on a regular basis. The products can be helpful in alleviating inflammation, itching and general pain with a number of skin irritations. The typical lotion or cream can be used to lessen the discomfort associated with diaper rash, insect bites, and skin irritations that are symptoms of some type of allergy. The over the counter products usually contain low amounts of the hormone, making them safe but effective for just about everyone.

There are also prescription-only hydrocortisone products that may be used in more severe situations. Because of the higher dosage, physicians tend to monitor the progress of the patient closely, adjusting the dosage of the prescription products whenever necessary. Monitoring the patient’s reaction can help prevent the incidence of side effects that may be triggered when the body is infused with excessive levels of the hormone.

For most people, the possibility of experiencing side effects from the use of over the counter hydrocortisone products is extremely low. Prescription medications are more likely to trigger side effects, although experiencing any ill effects from exposure to the products are very uncommon. Still, it is possible to experience side effects that are anywhere from mild to severe. Adjusting the dose normally alleviates any unpleasant effects and still allows the patient to enjoy the benefits of the medication.

Among some of the potential side effects of using a prescription hydrocortisone ointment, cream, or lotion include a sudden increase in appetite. Others may find that the medication impacts the mental processes, aggravating any existing depression or anxiety disorders. The skin may become excessively sensitive to natural sunlight, increasing the chances of sustaining a sunburn. Should any of these side effects appear, a physician should be consulted immediately. If decreasing the dosage does not alleviate the ill effects, a physician can usually prescribe an alternative ointment or salve in place of the hydrocortisone product.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon290361 — On Sep 09, 2012

Hydrocortisone is said to be one of the hidden ingredients used in Reumofan Plus. RP are pills taken twice a day to start and then people can taper off using them as needed.

Now there is a great recall and many refuse to stop using them because of the almost miraculous results. I have had many years of suffering from rheumatoid arthritis with little or no results from the regular RA doctors, who have also given me medicines with very bad side effects. Other supposedly hidden ingredients in RP are Prednisolone, Dexamethasone and Methocarbamol which is a muscle relaxer which I have refused from my doctors due to their horrible side effects I had when it was once given to me.

Many of the users feel it is because because of the that industry's competition here in the states since RP is manufactured in Mexico. I have used it for approximately 11 months with wonderful results and am so fearful of returning to how I used to be for almost 30 years with minimal help from many doctors for my RA, Fibromyalgia and most forms of arthritis.

Many don't trust the FDA, though they are supposedly for our protection. For almost a year I have been functioning normally, pain free and healthy! Now this?

By panda2006 — On Feb 26, 2011

I have heard about some athletes using injections of this, or a similar hormone at least. I think that Andre Agassi was getting them in the last couple of years up to his retirement. Sounds expensive and painful, but I guess it really did work.

By helene55 — On Feb 25, 2011

I had a friend with fibromyalgia who tried Hydrocortisone shots. It worked for awhile, though she eventually got tired of it. Thankfully, though, her fibromyalgia slowly improved until she didn't need them anymore.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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