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Many treatments are available to help manage atopic dermatitis (AD). There’s no cure for AD. But, sticking to your therapy can help prevent flare-ups and ease symptoms. Your treatment depends on where the rash is and how bad the itching is. Your triggers for flare-ups and how well your therapy works also matter. You may need to try a few treatments before you find what works best. Always talk to your doctor to learn about the pros and cons of each therapy.
Your doctor may instruct you to moisturize routinely and keep up with other self-care steps. If they don’t help, your doctor may add medications and other treatments.
- Some medications are topical. This means using creams, lotions or ointments you rub into the skin. Others are pills you swallow. Another one is an injection (shot) into the skin.
- Corticosteroids (or steroids) work well to reduce inflammation. Steroid creams and ointments are applied as directed and after you moisturize. They aren’t used for long-term because they can cause skin to become thin. Oral steroids like prednisone are capsules or tablets. Keep in mind prednisone has many possible side effects. So, they are used only short-term to treat a flare-up.
- Two other creams are tacrolimus (Protopic) and pimecrolimus (Elidel). These calm the immune system and help slow down the spread of the AD on your skin. Apply these as directed and after you moisturize.
- Your doctor may order topical antibiotics if the rash is infected or if there is an open sore or cracks in the skin. Sometimes your doctor may order antibiotic pills. It’s important to take antibiotics exactly as directed. Take all of them until they are gone even if your symptoms get better.
- Antiviral agents may be ordered if the infection is from a virus like herpes. Always take the antivirals as directed. Be sure to finish all of them even if your symptoms get better.
- Antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may help relieve itching. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to see if these might be a good option.
- Dupilumab (Dupixent) is a medication for people who can’t use topical medications. It’s also used if topical medications don’t work well. It’s often given as an injection under the skin every two weeks. You or a caregiver may be able to learn to give the injection.
Talk to your doctor to see if medication is an option for you.
- Your doctor may suggest wet dressings. Usually, you rub steroid creams or ointments, and then the area is wrapped with wet bandages. This helps the steroids get through the skin and keeps the skin moist.
- Light therapy may be ordered if topical treatments don’t work well enough or the rash quickly comes back. Light therapy can be as simple as being in the sun for a certain amount of time. It may also mean using ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) light. Light therapy works well for most people. But, it can cause the skin to age faster and there is a risk of getting skin cancer. Talk to your doctor to see if light therapy might be helpful. Light therapy is usually not recommended for young children.
- Stress is a common trigger for AD. So, talking to a therapist or counselor, biofeedback or learning relaxation techniques can help.
Talk with your doctor about treatment options and what to expect. Be sure all your caregivers are also informed. With their support, you can help manage AD and stay as healthy as possible.
This information is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about your medical condition and prior to starting any new treatment. CVS Specialty assumes no liability whatsoever for the information provided or for any diagnosis or treatment made as a result, nor is it responsible for the reliability of the content.
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