The treatment of eczema (atopic dermatitis) involves a combination of self-care measures, lifestyle modifications, and various medications to manage symptoms, reduce inflammation, and prevent flare-ups. The specific medicines used to treat eczema can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the individual’s response to treatment.
Some common medications used to manage eczema include:
- Emollients (Moisturizers): Emollients are an essential part of eczema treatment. They help keep the skin hydrated, reduce dryness, and alleviate itching. Regular and liberal use of emollients is recommended to maintain the skin’s natural moisture and improve the skin barrier function.
- Topical Corticosteroids: These are the most commonly prescribed medications for eczema flare-ups. Topical corticosteroids come in different strengths and formulations and are used to reduce inflammation and itching during acute flare-ups. They should be applied as directed by a healthcare professional, and lower-potency corticosteroids are often preferred for sensitive areas or for long-term use.
- Topical Calcineurin Inhibitors: These non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications are an alternative to corticosteroids or may be used in conjunction with them. They are particularly useful in areas where corticosteroids may not be suitable, such as the face or skinfold areas.
- Antihistamines: Oral antihistamines may be prescribed to help reduce itching and improve sleep when eczema symptoms are bothersome, especially at night.
- Topical PDE4 Inhibitors: Phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) inhibitors are a newer class of topical medications that help reduce inflammation and itching associated with eczema. They may be prescribed for individuals who do not respond well to other treatments.
- Oral or Injectable Immunomodulators: In some cases of severe or treatment-resistant eczema, oral or injectable immunomodulatory medications may be considered to modulate the immune response and control inflammation.
- Wet Dressings and Wet Wraps: During severe flare-ups, wet dressings or wet wraps may be used to soothe and hydrate the skin, especially in young children.
Eczema can be a frustrating skin condition, whether you get it a few times a year or deal with it every day. It’s important to work closely with your doctor to make a plan that will help you control the itch and rash.
Eczema treatment has four main goals:
- Control the itch.
- Heal the skin.
- Prevent flares.
- Prevent infections.
The right treatment for you depends on your age, medical history, how bad your symptoms are, and other things. You’ll probably need to use a mix of remedies to get the best results. And there are things you should do on your own to keep your skin healthy and clear.
Here’s your complete guide to eczema treatments.
Eczema meds can relieve your symptoms and help the skin heal when you take them as directed. The treatments may not have the same effects on everyone, though. So you and your doctor may need to try a few options to see what works best for you. Treatment plans may need to be changed sometimes when medications stop working as well as they once did. Learn more about treatments for when your eczema gets worse.
Corticosteroid creams, solutions, gels, foams, and ointments. These treatments, made with hydrocortisone steroids, can quickly relieve itching and reduce inflammation. They come in different strengths, from mild over-the-counter (OTC) treatments to stronger prescription medicines.
OTC hydrocortisone is often the first thing doctors recommend to treat mild eczema. You may need different strengths of these steroids, depending on where and how bad your rash is. For example, a doctor may prescribe a more potent one for thick, scaly skin. Side effects from these meds, such as thinning skin and stretch marks, are rare when you use them as directed. Read more on special care for damaged and broken skin.
PDE4 inhibitor. A prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory called crisaborole (Eucrisa) can treat mild to moderate forms of eczema. A twice-a-day application for patients 2 and older has been effective in easing inflammation and helping the skin look more like normal. Get details on how to use crisaborole ointment for eczema.
Barrier repair moisturizers. You can get these over the counter and by prescription. They help lock water into your skin, repair damage, and ease dryness, redness, and itching. Some products may have irritating fragrances or other ingredients, so ask your doctor or pharmacist which ones you should try or avoid. Find out which moisturizers are best for eczema.
Calcineurin inhibitors.Pimecrolimus and tacrolimus, medicines you rub on your skin (called topicals), treat moderate-to-severe eczema for some people. They ease inflammation, but they aren’t steroids. Doctors often recommend these if OTC steroids don’t work or cause problems. Some research showed that they may raise the risk of skin cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, so the FDA issued a special warning for them. But more recent studies don’t agree. Talk to your doctor about these risks before you take the drugs. View a slideshow to see the types of eczema treatments.
Corticosteroid pills, liquids, or shots. These powerful drugs help relieve symptoms of severe or hard-to-treat eczema. Because of the risk for side effects such as skin damage and bone loss, you should take them only for a short time. View a slideshow to learn more about corticosteroids.
Systemic immunomodulators. Drugs that weaken your immune system, including cyclosporine, methotrexate, and mycophenolate mofetil, help keep your body’s defenses from overreacting. You can take them as pills, as liquids, or as a shot. They can help people with moderate-to-severe eczema when other treatments haven’t worked. They ease itching so you scratch less, and your skin has time to heal. Serious side effects include high blood pressure and kidney problems. You should take these medicines for only a short time to limit the risk for these problems. Some of them aren’t recommended for children. Learn more about the immune system and how it works.
Biologics. These are man-made medications with proteins from living tissues or cells. They calm your immune system, easing inflammation and eczema symptoms. You get them through a shot under your skin or a needle in a vein. Dupilumab (Dupixent) is the first FDA-approved biologic for people 6 and older with moderate to severe eczema when other treatments haven’t worked. Watch a video to see how biologics work.
Antibiotics. Scratching damages your skin, which allows bacteria to get under it and cause an infection. These medicines treat bacterial skin infections. Find out more on antibiotics and how to take them.
Antihistamines. When you take them at night, these drugs relieve itching and can help you sleep. Read more on antihistamines and their side effects.
It’s important to note that treatment should be tailored to the individual’s specific needs and the severity of their eczema. Medications are typically used in combination with proper skin care and lifestyle adjustments to achieve the best outcomes. Always follow the advice and instructions provided by your healthcare professional regarding the use of any medication for eczema. Regular follow-ups with a healthcare provider are essential to monitor progress and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.