Atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema, is usually treated topically with corticosteroids and sometimes with oral drugs such as antibiotics, corticosteroids and immunomodulators.
Medications to Treat Eczema
Eczema is a chronic inflammatory condition of the skin. Corticosteroid ointments or creams are applied to the affected area of the skin to suppress the inflammation. However, they cannot cure eczema. They only help to keep the inflammation under control and may provide relief from itching and redness of the skin. For treating infected eczema, your doctor may recommend ointments or creams that combine corticosteroids with antiseptic or antibiotic.When applied to the skin, corticosteroids work by inhibiting activities of pro-inflammatory substances produced by the immune system at the site of eczema. The strength of topical corticosteroid used for treating eczema depends upon the severity of the skin condition.
Potent corticosteroid ointments or creams should be used in small amounts for a short time. Mild topical corticosteroids may be used for a prolonged period to reduce the episodes of eczema flare-ups. Topical corticosteroids used for eczema treatment include hydrocortisone, triamcinolone acetonide, betamethasone valerate, clobetasol propionate, fluticasone propionate, mometasone furoate, fludroxycortide and flucinonide. Unlike oral corticosteroids, topical corticosteroids are safe when used according to the physician’s instructions. Thinning of the skin and loss of skin pigment at the site of application are common side effects of topical corticosteroids.
Oral Corticosteroids or Corticosteroid Injections
Occasionally corticosteroids are taken orally or injected to treat severe eczema flare-ups. However, these therapies with corticosteroid can be used for short time. Although they provide fast relief from inflammation and itching, they increase the risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cataract, glaucoma, muscle weakness, thinning of the skin and infections.
Antibiotic therapy is necessary for treating infected eczema. People susceptible to eczema tend to have low levels of protective bacterial colonies on the skin that increase the risk of skin infection.While short-term treatment with antibiotic helps to heal active infections, prolonged antibiotic therapy may be needed to suppress growth of harmful bacteria on the skin that increases the risk of the eczema becoming infected.
Severe itching related to allergy can be healed with oral antihistamines. However, the effect of antihistamine on eczema is unclear. Health experts believe that the sedative effect of certain antihistamine medications may provide relief from itching by promoting sleep. Moreover, when you are asleep, you are least likely to scratch the skin, which facilitates the healing process. Oral antihistamines should be used only for a short time.
Immunomudulators that belong to the class of drugs known as skin-selective inflammatory cytokine inhibitor are used for treating eczema. They work by suppressing the immune system. Immunomodulators commonly used for treating eczema include pimecrolimus and tacrolimus.
They are used topically. These medications should not be used continuously for more than six weeks. Redness or burning in the area where the ointment is applied, unwanted skin growth, headache, eye irritation, nosebleed, cough, painful menstruation and diarrhea are common side effects of these medications. Given the serious side effects of these drugs, they are recommended only for treating severe eczema flare-ups that do not respond to conventional treatment.