Questions When Starting a New Therapy for Atopic Dermatitis

Reasons why a change in treatment may be in order, and what to ask a provider anytime you are changing treatment.

A woman reads the instruction label for an injectable biologic medication. The therapies a person uses to treat atopic dermatitis can change over time.

Updated on February 16, 2024

For many people, atopic dermatitis is a lifelong condition that requires continuous treatment. However, the treatments that a person uses to manage atopic dermatitis can change over time, for many different reasons. Here, we look at some of the circumstances where a person may want to consider changing treatments, as well as some questions to ask a healthcare provider when you are making a switch.

Remember, for any therapy for atopic dermatitis to work as intended, it needs to be taken as intended. This is known as adherence. Skipping doses, using a therapy inconsistently, or stopping treatment can cause atopic dermatitis symptoms to flare. Any changes to a treatment plan should always be made under the guidance of a healthcare provider.

Reasons to change atopic dermatitis treatment

One of the most important pieces of information you and your healthcare provider need to discuss before changing a treatment—what is the reason for wanting a change? While atopic dermatitis is a different experience for everyone, here are some examples:

  • Symptoms are not improving or are getting worse. One of the major goals of treating atopic dermatitis is reducing symptoms like itch and skin rash. If your current treatment is not achieving this goal, your provider may recommend a different therapy.
  • The therapy is difficult or inconvenient to use. This is common with topical medications like creams and ointments, which can be messy to apply and may need to be applied several times a day.
  • A therapy is causing side effects or carries a risk of side effects. All medications have the potential to cause side effects, and side effects—or concerns about side effects—are another reason why a person may want to consider a different therapy option.
  • The out-of-pocket cost is high. If the out-of-pocket costs of treatment is a concern, discuss it with your healthcare provider. Your pharmacist may also be a good person to talk to. Medication prices can vary by insurance plan, and it may be worth considering switching to a similar treatment that is less expensive. Your healthcare provider may be able to recommend other ways to reduce the out-of-pocket costs, such as patient savings programs or other discounts.
  • You’re being treated for an infection. Atopic dermatitis damages the skin. As a result, people with atopic dermatitis are at risk for bacterial infections. If you develop an infection, a healthcare provider can prescribe medications to treat it.
  • A newer therapy is available. New treatment options for atopic dermatitis are under development. A person and their healthcare provider might consider a newer treatment if it seems like it might be a good fit.

What to ask when starting a new treatment

It helps to prepare for appointments with your healthcare provider. If you are at a point in treatment where you are discussing different treatment options, here are some questions you may want to discuss:

  • How does this therapy work?
  • How is the therapy administered and how often?
  • How long will it take before I see a result?
  • What are the potential benefits of this therapy?
  • What are the potential side effects? Is there a risk of serious side effects?
  • What will this therapy cost?
  • Is there anything I should avoid while using this therapy? For example, certain foods or activities.
  • Can this therapy interact with other medications? Always tell your healthcare provider about all medications you are taking, including medications for other conditions, over-the-counter medications, and supplements. Also tell your healthcare provider about medications you have taken in the past.

It’s also important to discuss the other aspects of your treatment plan, and the other aspects of your health. This includes skin care, moisturizing, avoiding triggers, what you eat, coping with itch, reducing stress, sleep habits, and mental health.

Article sources open article sources

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Heather L. Tier, Esther A. Balogh, et al. Tolerability of and Adherence to Topical Treatments in Atopic Dermatitis: A Narrative Review. Dermatology and Therapy, 2021. Vol. 11, No. 2.
Winfed Frazier and Namita Bhardwaj. Atopic Dermatitis: Diagnosis and Treatment. American Family Physician, 2020. Vol. 101, No. 10.
MedlinePlus. When you feel like changing your medicine.
Brian B Johnson, Abigail I. Franco, Lisa A. Beck, and James C. Prezzano. Treatment-resistant atopic dermatitis: challenges and solutions. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 2019. Vol. 12.
Raj Chovatiya. Factors Affecting Patients Adherence in Topical Therapies. Dermatology Times, 2022. Vol. 43, No. 7.
Heather L. Tier, Esther A. Balogh, et al. Tolerability of and Adherence to Topical Treatments in Atopic Dermatitis: A Narrative Review. Dermatology and Therapy, 2021. Vol. 11, No. 2.
Megan Newsom, Arjun M. Bashyam, et al. New and Emerging Systemic Treatments for Atopic Dermatitis. Drugs, 2020. Vol. 80, No. 11.
Janna Manjelievskaia, Natalie Boytsov, et al. The direct and indirect costs of adult atopic dermatitis. Journal of Managed Care - Specialty Pharmacy, 2021. Vol. 27, No. 10.
Lawrence F. Eichenfield, Marco DiBonaventura, et al. Costs and Treatment Patterns Among Patients with Atopic Dermatitis Using Advanced Therapies in the United States: Analysis of a Retrospective Claims Database. Dermatology and Therapy, 2020. Vol. 10, No. 4.
Logan Kolb and Sarah J. Ferrer-Bruker. Atopic Dermatitis. StatPearls. August 2023.
H. Alexander, A.S. Paller, et al. The role of bacterial skin infections in atopic dermatitis: expert statement and review from the International Eczema Council Skin Infection Group. The British Journal of Dermatology, 2020. Vol. 182, No. 6.
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