Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a severe form of eczema, which is an umbrella term used to describe a group of conditions that result in itchy, red, and/or irritated skin. It is a chronic, inflammatory disease that results in red, itchy patches on the skin that can crack and weep. It is usually diagnosed and treated by a dermatologist or an allergist.

Atopic dermatitis usually starts in childhood, but can affect people of any age. People with eczema often also develop asthma and/or hay fever, or are related to someone with these allergic conditions. Many Children may grow out of AD, however, it can affect some people throughout their lives.

At least 18 million people in the U.S. have atopic dermatitis. What causes atopic dermatitis? We don’t know exactly what causes atopic dermatitis but it is believed that genes and environmental factors play a role. People with AD in childhood may go on to develop asthma or hay fever.

Atopic dermatitis can appear, or are up, when a person is exposed to something in his or her environment. This is commonly called a trigger. Known triggers for atopic dermatitis include exposure to allergens such as pollen, pet dander or peanuts, or by stress, dry skin and infection. Skin irritants such as some fabrics, soaps and household cleaners may also trigger an atopic dermatitis flare.

There is no cure for AD but there are many effective treatments. Flares can be treated with topical steroids, topical calcineurin inhibitors  and phototherapy. Systemic drugs such as methotrexate, cyclosporine are also used to control flares. New research on what causes atopic dermatitis has spurred the development of new drugs, with more currently in the clinical trial pipeline.

Systemic and topical treatments in the pipeline include the first biologic drug for adults with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis (Dupixent), and a non-steroid topical cream for mild-to-moderate AD patients.

In additional to treatments, it is important to have a regular schedule of skincare that includes bathing with a gentle cleanser and moisturizing to lock water into the skin.