Optimizing topical management of atopic dermatitis

Sneha Butala, Amy S. Paller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: Provide a review of atopic dermatitis management, focusing on optimizing topical therapy, creating a stepwise approach for treatment plans, and providing guidance on when to start systemic therapy. Data Sources: PubMed search of articles in the English language regarding atopic dermatitis in all ages. Study Selection: Articles on the subject matter were selected and reviewed. Results: Topical corticosteroids are the first-line treatment for managing atopic dermatitis. Topical nonsteroidal agents, calcineurin inhibitors, crisaborole, and recently, ruxolitinib, which cause no cutaneous atrophy, are options for reducing the use of topical corticosteroids, including on sensitive sites. Emerging topical agents are in clinical trials. Proactive management, with continued application 2 to 3 times weekly of a midpotency topical corticosteroid or tacrolimus, may maintain control for clear (or almost clear) localized sites of dermatitis that rapidly recur when topical anti-inflammatory medication is stopped. If topical therapy alone cannot control disease and quality of life is impacted, reevaluation to confirm the diagnosis, manage comorbid conditions, address compliance and patient-specific concerns, and optimize topical therapy must be undertaken before deciding to advance to systemic medication. Dupilumab, an interleukin-4 receptor inhibitor, has become first-line systemic therapy given its efficacy and safety, allowing long-term treatment without laboratory monitoring. Other biologics and Janus kinase inhibitors are emerging as alternatives that could eliminate the need for immunosuppressants with their higher risks. Conclusion: Several options are now available for topical treatment. A stepwise approach is needed to consider alternative therapies and diagnoses before advancing to systemic treatment, but the safety of newer immunomodulators will lower the threshold for more aggressive intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAnnals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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