What are the treatment options for atopic dermatitis?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The first step in treating atopic dermatitis -- an itchy skin condition commonly called eczema --  is learning how to keep it from flaring up. That could mean not wearing wool sweaters, giving up certain skin care products, or avoiding whatever makes your atopic dermatitis worse. Your doctor can help to identify what causes your atopic dermatitis to flare. Your doctor can also give you instructions on caring for your skin if you have atopic dermatitis.

Medications can help control atopic dermatitis symptoms. The medicines usually prescribed fall into several categories:
  • immunomodulators, which reduce inflammation and help to prevent flares
  • corticosteroid creams and ointments, which can ease symptoms of atopic dermatitis
  • systemic corticosteroids, which are taken as pills or injected
  • antibiotics, if you develop a skin infection related to atopic dermatitis
Doctors may prescribe stronger medications that alter the immune system for severe cases of atopic dermatitis. Other options include phototherapy, which uses ultraviolet rays to treat mild to moderate atopic dermatitis. Your doctor can give you more information on treatment options.

There is no cure for atopic dermatitis, but there are several treatment options that can help you manage the disease. Prescription strength corticosteroid creams or oral antihistamines (allergy medications) can be used to relieve itching. If these aren't effective your doctor might choose to prescribe a systemic corticosteroid instead. These can be taken orally or directly injected into the skin, but they are generally reserved for more severe cases. For people over the age of two, new medications known as immunomodulators can also be used to affect the immune system and help control atopic dermatitis. However, there are concerns about the effects of their long-term use and as a result they are typically used only as a last resort.

Light therapy has also shown promise in treating atopic dermatitis. When closely monitored by a doctor, exposure to controlled amounts of UV rays can help control the condition. But long-term use comes with several risks, including a higher chance of developing skin cancer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.