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The best line of defense against AD is prevention, but flare-ups rarely can be avoided. Once inflammation begins, prompt treatment as directed by a physician is needed. Bathing or wet compresses may ease the itch. Cortisone (steroid) creams applied directly to the affected area are helpful and a mainstay of therapy.
Cortisone pills or shots are sometimes used but they are not safe for long-term use. Researchers are constantly seeking new and safer drugs to control the itch and inflammation. Another treatment option is the use of ultraviolet light or sunlamps. Under a physician’s supervision, some AD sufferers find this treatment helps. Tar baths, antihistamines, and antibiotics are often used, but these, too, meet with limited success. Treatments that may have minimal success include vitamins, mineral supplements, enriched diets, or nutritional supplements.
Topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs) are a family of topical medications that work to inhibit the skin’s inflammatory response (which is what causes the redness and also contributes to itching). There are two FDA approved nonsteroid drugs: tacrolimus and pimecrolimus. TCIs are not steroids and do not cause thinning of the skin but they can suppress the immune system in the skin so that the use of sun protection for anyone receiving this therapy is recommended.