Best treatment options for Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic (long-lasting) disease that affects the skin. It is not contagious; it cannot be passed from one person to another. The word “dermatitis” means inflammation of the skin. “Atopic” refers to a group of diseases where there is often an inherited tendency to develop other allergic conditions, such as asthma and hay fever. In atopic dermatitis, the skin becomes extremely itchy. Scratching leads to redness, swelling, cracking, “weeping” clear fluid, and finally, crusting and scaling. In most cases, there are periods of time when the disease is worse (called exacerbations or flares) followed by periods when the skin improves or clears up entirely (called remissions). As some children with atopic dermatitis grow older, their skin disease improves or disappears altogether, although their skin often remains dry and easily irritated. In others, atopic dermatitis continues to be a significant problem in adulthood.

Effective Treatment Options

  • Long-term, intermittent application of topical corticosteroids is appropriate, effective and safe. Hydration and covering it help enhance the effect of medication.
  • Moisturizers are effective and safe. They are useful for both preventing the episodes and their treatment
  • Topical Immunomodulators (such as pimecrolimus and tacrolimus) reduce the rash severity and symptoms in children and adults
  • Oral antibiotics should be used to treat infected skin. They are not helpful for uninfected atopic dermatitis
  • Topical antibiotics are effective for skin infections, but they lead to development of resistance.
  • Oral antihistamines do not relieve itching associated with atopic dermatitis. They are indicated for patients with accompanying allergies (runny nose, watery itchy eyes, or hives)
  • Ultraviolet phototherapy is effective option as well

FOR MORE INFORMATION

  • Ghidorzi AJ Jr. Atopic Dermatitis. eMedicine. June 2001. Available at: www.emedicine.com/emerg/topic130.htm.
  • Atopic Dermatitis Handout by National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. (HTML, PDF)

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