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Intralesional Corticosteroid Injections (Cortisone Injections)

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Updated June 19, 2014

ARLINGTON, VA - JUNE 05: Dr. Shannon Ginnan measure out a Botox injection during an event called the 'The Botox Bailout' where the first 50 recently laid-off workers could exchange their resumes for free Botox injections June 5, 2009 in Arlington, Virginia.
Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Don't you hate those huge, monster blemishes? They’re big, painful, and take (what seems like) forever to go away. Don't you wish you could magically make them disappear, or at least heal more quickly?

Although not quite as extraordinary as a magic wand, corticosteroid injections may be the next best thing. Done in your dermatologist’s office, this treatment quickly reduces inflammation and heals the breakout in just a few days.

The technical term for this procedure is intralesional corticosteroid injection, but many acne sufferers just call them steroid shots, cortisone injections, or cyst injections.

How It Works:

Intralesional corticosteroid injections are used to treat deep papules, nodules or cysts. A very dilute corticosteroid is injected directly into the blemish. Don’t worry, it's a small needle! It's quick and nearly painless.

The cortisone reduces inflammation quite quickly. Over the next few days, the blemish softens and flattens out. Most lesions heal within a week after treatment.

Corticosteroid injections also lessen the chance of developing scars. This is especially valuable if you are prone to scarring or hyperpigmentation.

Corticosteroid injections are also used to help shrink hypertrophic and keloid scars.

Possible Side Effects:

If too much cortisone, or too strong a dilution is used, the fat around the injection site can atrophy. You’ll notice depressions, or pitting, of the skin in the area.

Fortunately, these depressions usually go away. This can take a long time, though (up to 6 months). Sometimes, this loss of tissue is permanent.

Incidentally, if you develop permanent pitting of the skin, it isn’t necessarily caused by the injections. Severe breakouts often cause atrophic scars. Dermal fillers may be a good solution in these cases.

Sources: Levine RM, Rasmussen JE. “Intralesional corticosteroids in the treatment of nodulocystic acne.” Arch Dermatol. 1983 Jun;119(6):480-1.

Taub AF. “Procedural treatments for acne vulgaris.” Dermatol Surg. 2007 Sep;33(9):1005-26.

“Treating Severe Acne.” AcneNet. 2008. American Academy of Dermatology. Accessed 18 June 2009.

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