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    Atopic Dermatitis: The Itch for New Treatments

    J. Clay Davis, MD Deaconess Clinic Dermatology 08/23/2017

    J. Clay Davis, MD; Department of Dermatology, Deaconess Clinic
    Mark Smith, MS II; Indiana University School of Medicine – Evansville
    Tom Strobel, MS II; Indiana University School of Medicine – Evansville
    Nona Mehrnia; Purdue University – West Lafayette

    Uncontrollable itching. Cracked, scaly, or dry skin. Small raised bumps that ooze when scratched. If your child suffers from any of these symptoms, they might have a severe form of eczema known as atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is a common chronic skin condition that can occur in people of any age; however, it most commonly begins in childhood and improves as people approach adulthood.

    According to the National Eczema Association, approximately 1 out of every 10 American children suffers from atopic dermatitis, and one third of those children have moderate to severe symptoms. Even though the disease is common, the medical treatments available today and prevention of atopic dermatitis often are not sufficient.
    Current treatments for atopic dermatitis include:
    Moisturizers: One of the most common and effective preventions for atopic dermatitis symptoms is maintaining the moisture of the skin. By keeping the skin moist with moisturizers, symptoms improve and flare ups are less common. Although maintaining the moisture of the skin helps reduce flare ups and the severity of the symptoms, it does not treat or effectively prevent the symptoms of atopic dermatitis.
    Medications: Various medications to help relieve the symptoms of atopic dermatitis are available. The medications typically prescribed include topical corticosteroids and oral antihistamines. Topical corticosteroids reduce the inflammation and irritation of the skin, and oral antihistamines help reduce itching and help improve the sleep of itching patients. These medications help improve the symptoms of atopic dermatitis, but they do not treat the cause of the disease or prevent flare ups from occurring.
    Lifestyle modifications: Various lifestyle modifications can be used by patients in an attempt to prevent flare ups of atopic dermatitis. These modifications include moisturizing the skin, avoiding known allergies, avoiding bathing or showering too frequently, avoiding skin irritants, using a humidifier, and avoiding sweating. These modifications may help reduce flare ups and the symptoms of atopic dermatitis, but sufferers can still experience frequent symptoms even with all of the recommended precautions.
    UV therapy: UV therapy, or phototherapy, can be effective at treating atopic dermatitis in some patients by reducing inflammation in the skin. However, it does not come without risks. UV therapy can cause skin damage, sunburn, skin cancer, or worsening of other skin conditions.
    Dupilumab: Dupilumab is a medication approved for adults to treat moderate to severe atopic dermatitis that is not well controlled by other treatments, and it is currently in clinical trials for kids. It is a monoclonal antibody that acts to modulate the immune system. It can be used with or without topical steroids to further combat the symptoms of atopic dermatitis.

    Check with your dermatologist, pediatrician or family doctor to see if your child might be a good candidate for participating in clinical trials for new treatments for atopic dermatitis.

    To learn about participating in clinical trials for Atopic Dermatitis, click or call 1-877-654-0311. Email questions to

    Learn more about the author

    J. Clay Davis, MD
    Specialty: Dermatology
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