• Common treatments for atopic dermatitis include dilute bleach baths and medicated topicals.
  • Trials are looking at how specific wavelengths of ultraviolet light can help treat the condition.
  • New biologic drugs have been shown to block immune signals that cause inflammation.

Eczema is a chronic condition that causes red, scaly, itchy patches of skin. The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis.

Multiple factors may contribute to the development of atopic dermatitis, including an overactive immune system and problems with the skin barrier. The skin barrier is the outermost layer of skin, which helps keep bacteria and other harmful substances out while keeping moisture in.

Changes in skin care practices may help reduce symptoms of atopic dermatitis. Dermatologists may also prescribe treatments like:

  • dilute bleach baths
  • medicated creams or ointments
  • phototherapy with ultraviolet light

Oral and injectable medications may be used to treat moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis.

Researchers continue to study the causes of atopic dermatitis, as well as new and improved treatment options. Multiple clinical trials are underway to study treatments for this condition.

Read on to learn about some of the current clinical trials.

To help treat symptoms of atopic dermatitis, dermatologists sometimes recommend dilute bleach baths. This treatment isn’t new, but questions remain about its effectiveness.

A 2018 review of past studies found that dilute bleach baths may reduce symptoms of atopic dermatitis. They may kill bacteria on the skin, decrease inflammation, and relieve itching.

The authors of a 2017 review also linked dilute bleach baths to reduced symptoms of atopic dermatitis. However, some studies found that plain water baths provided similar benefits.

Now, researchers from the University of Arizona are conducting a clinical trial to learn how dilute bleach baths and gauze soaks affect:

  • skin barrier function
  • microbes on the skin
  • eczema symptoms

These researchers are also studying the effects of dilute vinegar baths and gauze soaks on atopic dermatitis.

Phototherapy, a long-standing therapy for eczema, is also known as light therapy. Doctors may prescribe it when topical treatments such as creams or ointments haven’t improved symptoms of atopic dermatitis.

Phototherapy uses a light-emitting machine to expose your skin to ultraviolet (UV) light. It usually uses UVB light, which has a shorter wavelength and doesn’t pass as deeply into the skin as UVA light. Some types of phototherapy use a combination of UVA and UVB light.

There are two types of UVB light: broadband and narrowband. Canadian researchers are currently conducting a clinical trial to learn which type is more effective for treating atopic dermatitis.

In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved dupilumab (Dupixent) to treat moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis in adults. More recently, the FDA approved this medication for children as young as 6 years old.

Dupilumab is the first FDA-approved biologic treatment for atopic dermatitis. Biologics are a type of injectable medication derived from living organisms or cells. They block immune signals that lead to inflammation.

Past clinical trials have found that dupilumab is safe and effective for treating moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis in people ages 6 and over. Now scientists are conducting clinical trials to learn how safe and effective this medication is for younger children.

One phase 2 trial has found that dupilumab is generally well tolerated among children ages 6 months to 6 years old, report researchers in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. Among children who received dupilumab, eczema symptom area and severity scores fell by 39 to 50 percent. Children ages 2 to 6 years had greater improvements in eczema symptoms than younger children.

Another phase 3 trial among children ages 6 months to 18 years is ongoing.

Dupixent is currently the only FDA-approved biologic treatment for atopic dermatitis. However, several other biologics have shown promise in clinical trials for treating this condition.

These biologics include:

  • nemolizumab
  • lebrikizumab
  • tralokinumab
  • ISB 830

Phase 2 clinical trials have provided evidence that these biologics are safe and effective for reducing the severity of atopic dermatitis in adults, report the authors of a 2021 review. Nemolizumab appeared to be particularly effective for reducing itchiness from atopic dermatitis.

More long-term studies are needed to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of these medications. Biologics in general may cause redness, swelling, pain, or itchiness around the injection site. They may also raise the risk of certain infections.

Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors have also shown promise for treating moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis.

JAK inhibitors are oral medications that block certain immune signals involved in inflammation. JAK signaling also plays a role in chronic itchiness, report researchers in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

Clinical trials are underway to study the treatment of atopic dermatitis with a variety of JAK inhibitors, including:

  • abrocitinib
  • baricitinib (Olumiant)
  • gusacitinib
  • tofacitinib (Xeljanz)
  • upadactinib (Rinvoq)

Some JAK inhibitors are still in phase 1 trials for atopic dermatitis. Others, including abrocitinib, Olumiant, and Rinvoq, are now in phase 3 trials for this condition.

JAK inhibitors may raise the risk of certain infections or cause other side effects.

Multiple clinical trials are underway to study treatments for atopic dermatitis, including dilute bleach baths, biologic medications, JAK inhibitors, and other therapies.

To learn more about new and experimental treatments for atopic dermatitis, speak with your doctor. They can help you understand your current treatment options and provide updates on new treatments as they become available.