Atopic dermatitis: understanding the disease and its management

Curr Med Res Opin. 2007 Dec;23(12):3091-103. doi: 10.1185/030079907X242593.


Objective: Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a common, chronic, inflammatory skin disease that can significantly reduce the quality of life of not only patients but also entire families. This review will focus on the currently available non-pharmacologic and pharmacologic treatments for the control and management of AD.

Research design and methods: A review of English-language articles from January 1953 to May 2006 was performed within the MEDLINE database. Search terms included, but were not limited to, atopic dermatitis, topical corticosteroids, and topical calcineurin inhibitors. Studies evaluating the diagnosis, physical and psychological burden, and underlying pathophysiology of AD were included. Particular focus was placed on literature presenting key safety and efficacy data from clinical trials involving AD treatment.

Results: Although good skin care and trigger avoidance are fundamental to AD management, most patients also require pharmacologic intervention. Topical therapies comprise the foundation of AD treatment. In particular, topical corticosteroids have been a mainstay in AD treatment for several decades and the newer topical calcineurin inhibitors have become a valuable addition to the therapeutic armamentarium. TCIs are a safe and effective AD treatment; they limit the number of disease flares, extend the time between flares, and provide a steroid-sparing option that may be of particular benefit in the pediatric population. The use of more potent therapies, such as systemic (oral/injected) agents or phototherapy, is typically limited to the treatment of severe, refractory disease. Additionally, owing to the increased risk for bacterial, viral, and fungal infections in patients with AD, topical or systemic antimicrobials are an important component of treatment.

Limitations: Case reports and small-scale studies were typically not included in this analysis and owing to the limited number of trials evaluating TCSs, consensus statements and comprehensive review articles were used to obtain information pertaining to the use of this treatment in AD.

Conclusions: AD is a common, chronic disease requiring a long-term management strategy that incorporates preventive measures and a multipronged treatment approach.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / drug therapy
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male