What are steroid injections used for?
Cortisone injections are commonly used for many hair loss conditions but are not effective in all conditions. The most well known use of cortisone injections is for alopecia areata followed by scarring alopecias such as lichen planopilaris, frontal fibrosing alopecia, central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia amd even some cases of traction alopecia. Steroid injections are not helpful in androgenetic alopecia and most cases of telogen effluvium.
Are steroid injections safe?
Monthly steroid injections are generally fairly safe for a few months and this is commonly done for small patches of alopecia areata with very good effect. However one needs to sit down with a physician to review all potential side effects even with short term use. Our Handout on Steroid Injections in shown in the link below
Side effects with short term use include temporary indentations in the scalp, tenderness with the injections, rarely fatigue, mood changes. Some female patients will notice that they might even miss a period. Complications such as adrenal suppression, diabetes, blood pressure changes, are rare but need to be considered. With longer term use beyong 4-5 months one needs to consider all the short term changes mentioned above plus changes in bone density, mood changes, fatigue, stretch marks, diabetes, cholesterol issues, cataracts, high blood pressure and a few other issues as well. Alot of the real magnitude of risk depends on the concentration of the steroid that is being injected and the actual volume. If concerned, please be sure to have a discussion with your physician. Steroid injections can be highly highly effective for many conditions but need to be respected.
Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887