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Curr Med Res Opin. 2010 Mar;26(3):633-40. doi: 10.1185/03007990903512156.

Atopic dermatitis: a review of topical treatment options.

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  • Department of Dermatology, Oregon Health & Sciences University, Portland, OR, USA. simpsone@ohsu.edu



Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic, pruritic, inflammatory skin disease with a wide range of severity, and is usually the first manifestation of atopic disease. It is one of the most common skin disorders in developed countries, affecting approximately 20% of children and 1-3% of adults. Symptoms such as eczematous papules, plaques, and itch, and their associated consequences, such as sleep disturbance, can significantly impact the quality of life of the patient and family.


This is a broad-based review focusing on clinical practice for primary care physicians treating patients with AD. The PubMed database was searched (to 1 November 2008) for English-language articles containing the keywords atopic dermatitis, atopic eczema, topical calcineurin inhibitor, tacrolimus, pimecrolimus, or corticosteroid. Articles focusing on clinical practice for patients with AD were chosen for further review. A limitation is that this is not a systematic review of the literature.


Emollients have long been used to maintain the skin barrier function in patients with AD. Topical corticosteroids have been the pillar of medicated therapy for AD since their introduction nearly 50 years ago. The introduction of topical calcineurin inhibitors more than 8 years ago represented the first new class of medication approved for the treatment of AD since topical corticosteroids. Topical calcineurin inhibitors provide targeted anti-inflammatory activity without the local or systemic side-effects seen with topical corticosteroids. More recently, three new, nonsteroidal, barrier creams (Atopiclair * , Mimyx dagger , and Epiceram double dagger ) have entered the marketplace for AD treatment. A multi-therapeutic approach that incorporates short-term management of flares and longer-term strategies to prolong the time between flares is needed for the treatment of AD.


Multiple topical therapies have been successfully used to treat patients with AD. An understanding of the available treatment options will help primary care providers striving to achieve best practice in the management of AD.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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