How does this medication work? What will it do for me?

Betamethasone dipropionate belongs to the class of medications called topical corticosteroids. It is used to relieve inflammatory symptoms and itch caused by severe psoriasis and rashes that respond to treatment with corticosteroid creams, lotions, or ointments. Such rashes include contact dermatitis, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and senile pruritis. It works by reducing inflammation, swelling, and irritation of the skin.

This medication may be available under multiple brand names and/or in several different forms. Any specific brand name of this medication may not be available in all of the forms or approved for all of the conditions discussed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here.

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are being given this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop using this medication without consulting your doctor.

Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to use this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.

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What form(s) does this medication come in?

Each gram of cream contains betamethasone dipropionate USP equivalent to betamethasone 0.5 mg in a water-miscible base. Nonmedicinal ingredients: cetostearyl alcohol, chlorocresol, mineral oil, monobasic sodium phosphate, phosphoric acid, polyethylene glycol 1000 monocetyl ether, sodium hydroxide, water, and white petrolatum.

Each gram of lotion contains betamethasone dipropionate USP equivalent to betamethasone 0.5 mg. Nonmedicinal ingredients: carbomer 934P, isopropyl alcohol, sodium hydroxide to adjust pH, and water.

Each gram of ointment contains betamethasone dipropionate USP equivalent to 0.5 mg (0.05%) betamethasone USP, in a lanolin-free base. Nonmedicinal ingredients: white petrolatum.

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How should I use this medication?

Cream or ointment: Apply enough cream or ointment to completely cover the affected area, with a thin film. Massage it gently and thoroughly into the skin. This medication is usually applied once daily in the morning, or twice daily in the morning and at night as directed by the doctor. The treatment should be stopped when the condition is cleared. This usually takes at least 3 days. Do not continue the medication for longer than 4 weeks without further consulting your doctor.

Lotion: A few drops of lotion is usually enough to cover the affected area. Gently massage the lotion into the area until it disappears. The lotion is usually applied once daily for 3 weeks.

Shake the lotion well before applying it to the affected area.

The cream, ointment, and lotion should not be covered with a dressing that does not allow the area to breathe, such as plastic wrap or a diaper. Doing so may cause unwanted effects of the medication.

Do not let this medication get in your eyes. If contact occurs, flush with plenty of water and consult your doctor.

Many things can affect the dose of a medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are using the medication without consulting your doctor.

It is important that this medication be used exactly as prescribed by your doctor. If you miss a dose, apply it as soon as possible and continue with your regular schedule. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Do not apply a double dose to make up for a missed one. If you are not sure what to do after missing a dose, contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Store this medication at room temperature, protect it from light and moisture, and keep it out of the reach of children.

Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.

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Who should NOT take this medication?

Do not use this medication if you:

  • are allergic to betamethasone dipropionate or any ingredients of the medication
  • have a skin infection caused by viruses, including herpes simplex, vaccinia, and varicella (chickenpox)
  • have had an allergic reaction to other corticosteroid medications
  • have tuberculosis of the skin
  • have untreated infected skin lesions caused by an infection with fungi or bacteria
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What side effects are possible with this medication?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.

The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.

The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.

Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.

  • burning, dryness, irritation, itching, or redness of skin (usually mild and temporary)
  • increased redness or scaling of skin sores (usually mild and temporary)
  • skin rash (usually mild and temporary)
  • stinging sensation when applied (lotion only)

Although most of these side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not check with your doctor or seek medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

  • increased skin sensitivity
  • lack of healing of skin condition
  • ongoing burning, itching and irritation of skin
  • itchy rash with small, red, raised bumps
  • skin discoloration
  • skin infection
  • "spider veins" or blood vessels visible through the skin
  • thinning of skin with easy bruising

Additional side effects may occur if this medication is used improperly or for long periods of time. Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

  • acne or oily skin
  • backache
  • blurring or loss of vision (occurs gradually if medication has been used near the eye)
  • depression
  • eye pain (if medication has been used near the eye)
  • filling or rounding out of the face
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased hair growth, especially on the face and body
  • increased loss of hair, especially on the scalp
  • irregular heartbeat
  • irregular menstrual periods
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle cramps, pain, or weakness
  • nausea
  • pus in the hair follicles
  • rapid weight gain or loss
  • reddish purple lines on arms, face, legs, trunk, or groin
  • redness and scaling around the mouth
  • skin colour changes
  • softening of the skin
  • stomach bloating, burning, cramping, or pain
  • swelling of feet or lower legs
  • tearing of the skin
  • thinning of skin with easy bruising
  • unusual bruising
  • unusual decrease in sexual desire or ability (in men)
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • vomiting
  • weakness of the arms, legs, or trunk (severe)
  • white spots
  • worsening of infections

Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.

Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?

Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.

Be sure to tell all health professionals involved in your care that you are using this medication.

Absorption: Topical (applied to the skin) corticosteroids such as betamethasone dipropionate are known to be absorbed into the bloodstream if used for prolonged periods of time on large areas of the body. Absorption occurs most often when the medication is covered with a bandage that doesn't breathe. This increases the risk of side effects throughout the body being caused by this medication. Therefore, it is advisable to use this medication only for brief periods and to stop using it as soon as the problem clears.

Eyes: Use this medication with caution on lesions close to the eye. Take care to ensure that it does not enter the eye, as glaucoma may result. Cataracts have been reported following internal use of corticosteroids. Report changes in your vision to your doctor as soon as possible.

Infection: Betamethasone should not be used on any infected area until the infection has cleared. Topical corticosteroids may increase the risk of developing a skin infection. If you notice any increased redness, swelling, heat, or pain around the area where the medication is applied, contact your doctor, as these are possible signs of infection.

Stopping this medication: Suddenly stopping corticosteroid medication may cause your skin condition to return. If you have been using this medication or others that are similar for a long period of time, discuss with your doctor the best way to discontinue the medication.

Thinning of skin: Using topical corticosteroid medications for a long period of time can cause skin and the tissues underneath to thin or soften, or cause stretch marks. Your doctor may recommend you stop using this medication once in a while or to apply to one area of the body at a time to give the skin a chance to strengthen.  If you notice changes to the texture or colour of your skin, contact your doctor as soon as possible, as this may be a sign that the medication needs to be reduced.

Pregnancy: This medication should not be used during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks. If you become pregnant while using this medication, contact your doctor immediately.

Breast feeding: It is not known if topical betamethasone dipropionate passes into breast milk. If you are a breast-feeding mother and are using this medication, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.

Children: Betamethasone dipropionate belongs to the family of medications known as corticosteroids. Children may be more likely to experience the side effects encountered by using large amounts of this class medication for long periods of time (e.g., slowing down of growth, delayed weight gain). The use of this medication by children should be limited to the smallest amount that will be effective for the shortest period of time. Discuss the risks and benefits of the use of this medication by children with your doctor.

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What other drugs could interact with this medication?

There may be an interaction between betamethasone dipropionate and any of the following:

  • other topical medications that contain corticosteroids
  • topical medications that have irritating effects

If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:

  • stop taking one of the medications,
  • change one of the medications to another,
  • change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
  • leave everything as is.

An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.

Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.