How Do Treatments Help 'Control' Atopic Dermatitis?

In general, good control of atopic dermatitis means living for long periods without experiencing significant symptoms or disturbance to daily life.1

Atopic dermatitis requires daily attention to keep the itching and rash under control. Good skin care practices, such as using soap-free cleansers, moisturising every day and taking short lukewarm showers, should be routine for all people with atopic dermatitis.1

However, with even the most diligent skin care practices a flare can still be triggered, and symptoms resurface. When a person starts experiencing more flare-ups over periods of time that are symptom free, their condition may be considered ‘uncontrolled’.1 If this occurs, talk to your doctor about other treatment options that may be more suitable for managing the symptoms of atopic dermatitis.

Different Treatments for Different Needs

You may hear atopic dermatitis described as mild or moderate-to-severe, but what do they actually mean? While there are a number of factors that healthcare professionals will consider when assessing your disease severity, in general the terms refer to how well you respond to treatment.

  • A person who has mild atopic dermatitis generally has significant periods of time where their symptoms are controlled using emollients and topical anti-inflammatory therapies, as well as common sense practices such as avoiding triggers and irritants.1
  • A person who has moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis experiences unreliable control of symptoms despite using emollients and topical anti-inflammatory therapies or avoiding triggers and irritants.1

Discover the Different Treatment Options Available to You

Along with an optimal skin care routine, there are a range of treatment options available for atopic dermatitis. Working out what is best for you depends on a number of factors, including the severity of your condition and the impact it has on your life.1 Remember everybody responds to treatments differently – work with your doctor to find the right treatment, or combination of treatments, for your specific needs.

Therapies used on the skin’s surface1,18

Topical corticosteroids are a broad range of medicines that help relieve the swelling, itching and redness of atopic dermatitis. While some are available from the pharmacy, others require a prescription from your doctor.

These medicines are available in a number of different formulations, such as creams, ointments and hydrogels and are applied directly to the affected areas of your skin.

Generally, topical corticosteroids are used for weeks at a time and should not be used for long continuous periods. If topical therapies fail to maintain control of your atopic dermatitis, speak to your doctor about your other options.

Topical calcineurin inhibitors are used to help control inflammation, itch or redness associated with atopic dermatitis generally when other therapies are unsuitable for use in sensitive areas or have caused side effects.

Topical calcineurin inhibitors require a prescription from your doctor and are available as a cream or ointment that is applied directly to the affected areas of your skin.

Phototherapy involves exposing your skin to short controlled bursts of UV light over a prolonged period of time. It is generally considered for people with atopic dermatitis whose condition remains uncontrolled despite topical treatments.

Topical PDE4 inhibitors are a prescribed non-steroid treatment that is applied to the skin. The exact way that they work is still unknown; however, they are thought to reduce the amount of substances in your body that may trigger a flare.

Systemic treatments1,19,25–27

Immunosuppressant therapies, most commonly cyclosporine, work to desensitise your immune system, particularly your white blood cells that normally fight against foreign bodies that may be harmful to your body. By lessening your immune response, they can help reduce some of the symptoms of atopic dermatitis.

Immunosuppressant therapies do work, but can be associated with unfavourable side effects in some people, which may limit their use.

Biologics are a newer class of injectable medicine that are used to treat many conditions, including moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis.

These therapies treat the causes of inflammation occurring under the skin by blocking the action of certain types of proteins in your immune system that contribute to the symptoms of atopic dermatitis to reduce itch and improve the condition of your skin.

Biologics are a highly specialised medicine that are generally reserved for people who have not been able to achieve disease control despite using topical treatments. For atopic dermatitis, biologics can only be prescribed by a dermatologist or immunologist.

Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors help to relieve the symptoms of atopic dermatitis by blocking the activity of enzymes in the immune system called ‘Janus kinases’, which are involved in inflammation. They may be prescribed if topical treatments alone have not been able to control the symptoms of atopic dermatitis.

JAK inhibitors are taken orally (swallowed) and can be used alone or in combination with topical treatments. Before starting and during use, tests may be required to monitor progress and potential side effects.


All medicines have side effects. Please discuss the possible side effects with your doctor.