Atopic dermatitis, or AD, is a disease of the immune system. The disease not only involves your skin, but also an overactive branch of the immune system. What does that mean?

Think of your immune system as an ancient tree that has evolved to protect us from external dangers, with branches for fighting infections such as viruses and bacteria. The overactive branch in atopic dermatitis, or eczema, used to play a role in fighting parasites, but even though there are few threats left in our hygienic environment, the branch still remains.

While environmental factors can make eczema worse, controlling diet has not been found to be effective in treating AD in adults. On the other hand, we do have treatments that can be used to control flares for long periods of time.

The treatment journey starts with established medications that control immune responses; these shrink the whole tree over time, putting atopic dermatitis into remission. Once the disease is controlled, the goal becomes maintaining that response.

If the first step doesn’t work or can’t be pursued, a more tailored therapy is provided. At this stage of the treatment journey, a medication is used to selectively cut off the branch. While this is effective, accessing these medications can be complicated by cost.

To learn more about the treatment journey and specific information on medications, speak to your dermatologist, or see our Frequently Asked Questions section.