Atopic Dermatitis

A chronic allergic skin condition. Atopic dermatitis typically causes dry and itchy skin and rashes over the face, inside the elbows, behind the knees, and on the hands and feet. The resulting scratching may lead to redness, swelling, cracking, “weeping” of clear fluid, crusting, thick skin, and scaling. People with atopic dermatitis are more susceptible to certain viral infections of the skin.

The National Institutes of Health recommends treating atopic dermatitis with lotion or petroleum jelly, avoiding long or hot baths or showers, avoiding things that trigger flares, and treating symptoms as they occur. Medications for atopic dermatitis include skin creams and ointments, corticosteroids, antibiotics to treat bacterial infections, antihistamines that cause drowsiness (to prevent night-time scratching), and drugs that suppress the immune system. Sometimes light therapy is used in conjunction with the drug psoralen.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new drug for atopic dermatitis in March 2017. In two large clinical trials reported in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2016, 36 percent of patients with inadequately treated atopic dermatitis who were treated with dupilumab (brand name Dupixent) saw their rashes completely or nearly completely go away. Those taking dupilumab also had reductions in itching, anxiety, and depression and improved quality of life.

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