Medically reviewed by Alan Carter, PharmD
Written by Jon Johnson
Fluocinonide is a topical steroid that doctors may prescribe for inflammatory skin disorders and their symptoms.
Fluocinonide helps treat skin problems in many people, but it can also cause side effects.
Anyone who is using fluocinonide and notices side effects that are difficult to deal with should talk to their doctor to explore alternative treatments.
In this article, learn more about fluocinonide, including its uses, risks, and alternatives.
What is fluocinonide?
Fluocinonide is a synthetic corticosteroid. Corticosteroids provide relief from inflammation and symptoms by blocking the body’s inflammatory response.
Some corticosteroids occur naturally in the body. Synthetic corticosteroids, such as fluocinonide, aim to mimic the effects of these natural corticosteroids.
Fluocinonide is an anti-inflammatory and antipruritic (anti-itching) medication. It comes in common topical forms, including:
- liquid solutions
Companies sell fluocinonide under the brand names Vanos, Lidex, and Fluocinonide-E, among others.
A doctor or dermatologist may recommend fluocinonide to treat symptoms of skin issues, such as:
Fluocinonide helps treat symptoms of swelling and inflammation, as well as itching and redness.
Side effects and risks
Fluocinonide can bring relief to many people with inflammatory skin symptoms. However, fluocinonide may also cause side effects. Common side effects include:
- skin thinning or thickening
- stretch marks
- skin discoloration
Sometimes, these symptoms only appear for the first few days of using fluocinonide and go away after the body gets used to the medication. However, some people may experience lasting symptoms.
If symptoms do not get better within 2 weeks, or become more severe, talk to a doctor about treatment alternatives.
People taking corticosteroids may experience uncommon but potentially severe side effects. These include:
- new or worsening acne
- loss of skin tone
- inflammation and pain in the hair follicles or sweat glands
- inflammation and rash around the mouth
- abnormal body hair growth
- signs of a skin infection, such as oozing or cracked, bleeding skin
- thin skin that bruises or breaks easily
Other potential complications of using fluocinonide include:
Cushing’s syndrome occurs when there is too much of the hormone cortisol in the bloodstream. The body can make too much cortisol naturally, but high amounts of fluocinonide in the blood may also trigger the body to produce too much cortisol.
Signs of Cushing’s syndrome include:
- unexplained weight gain
- odd weight distribution, such as growing a lump of fat in the upper back
- new stretch marks
- a very round face
- high blood pressure
- muscle weakness
Some symptoms may also signal adrenal insufficiency, which can occur if a person uses fluocinonide for long periods or over large areas of the body.
Adrenal insufficiency may cause other symptoms, such as:
- sudden weight loss
- loss of appetite
Children who use fluocinonide may have an increased risk of side effects, such as adrenal insufficiency. Talk to a doctor about all treatment options before using fluocinonide to treat symptoms in children.
Dosage and use
Doctors usually prescribe fluocinonide in very low concentrations at 0.05% or 0.1%.
Dosage and application will vary based on the individual’s health and the severity of their symptoms.
Fluocinonide is a topical treatment, and a doctor or pharmacist can advise a person how often they should apply the cream.
Start by applying a minimal amount of the medication to one small area of the affected skin to test for a reaction.
Only use the medication as directed by a doctor or dermatologist. Do not use fluocinonide more often or longer than they recommend.
Do not apply fluocinonide to other sensitive areas, such as the groin, underarms, or face, unless directly ordered to do so by a doctor.
After applying fluocinonide, avoid wrapping the area in a bandage or wearing tight clothing, as this may increase the risk of side effects.
It is also crucial to wash the hands after applying fluocinonide to the skin. This helps avoid contact with sensitive areas, such as the eyes, nose, or mouth.
If fluocinonide accidentally contacts these areas, flush the area with plenty of water.
Talk to a doctor before making any changes to treatment, including switching medications or using it in higher doses.
People should always tell their doctor about any drugs or other medication they are taking before using fluocinonide. A doctor will want to make sure that none of the medicines, vitamins, or supplements a person takes will interact with fluocinonide.
In general, doctors do not recommend using fluocinonide creams for longer than 2 weeks.
Fluocinonide is a common treatment for skin conditions and inflammatory symptoms, but it is not the only treatment.
If a person does not respond well to fluocinonide or their symptoms do not get better, doctors may recommend one or more alternatives to try.
The National Eczema Association suggest several other topical steroids that may help with similar symptoms, including:
- diflorasone diacetate
- halobetasol propionate
Depending on the underlying condition requiring treatment, doctors may also recommend other nonsteroidal drugs to help alleviate symptoms.
These recommendations will vary in each case and depend on the individual’s symptoms.
Fluocinonide is a synthetic topical steroid that can help treat inflammation and itching in the skin.
Short-term application of fluocinonide can help treat symptoms of inflammation, rashes, and itching from conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, and allergies.
People should follow a doctor’s recommendations when using fluocinonide. Incorrect use may increase the risk of complications such as adrenal insufficiency.
Anyone who notices severe side effects or symptoms that get worse should contact their doctor to review the treatment options.