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Treating Eczema With Biologics


Lavanya Krishnan, MD

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Treating Moderate to Severe Eczema

Because eczema can vary greatly in severity, a thorough understanding of treatment options is important.

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin disease associated with itching and extreme dryness. The newest advances in the treatment of eczema are biological drugs. Highly advanced, targeted therapies, “biologics” are genetically engineered drugs tailor-made from living cells cultured in a laboratory. They work by suppressing portions of the immune system responsible for allergy-related conditions and have been very successful in treating moderate to severe eczema cases.

How Biologics Work

In chronic, inflammatory diseases like eczema, the immune system overreacts to certain irritants. This response leads to red, itchy patches forming on the skin. Biologics are essentially designed to stop the immune system from overreacting, thus lessening the severity of atopic dermatitis symptoms. These drugs are intended for and approved to treat moderate to severe cases of atopic dermatitis, or cases that can’t be managed successfully using topical medications or other treatments. 

Caring for sensitive skin and eczema can be challenging, but with the right tips and tricks, you can give your skin the love it needs.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 28, 2017

2017 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

Understand Your Options

Biologics offer a customized approach to treatment that targets the specific immune cells functioning irregularly in the skin. The two biologic medications effective in treating atopic dermatitis are dupilumab (Dupixent) and omalizumab (Xolair). Dupilumab is the first biologic drug approved for use in treating atopic dermatitis, and it’s been shown to drastically reduce symptoms of itchiness, rashes, swelling and thickened skin. This drug works by blocking certain proteins in the immune system from attacking your own body. Some side effects for this drug are eye inflammation problems such as pink eye, and reactions at the injection site like mild rashes.

Omalizumab (Xolair) is a biological drug originally developed to lower patients’ sensitivity to allergens; it is primarily used to treat severe cases of asthma. Because allergies and eczema outbreaks are often related, this drug is now being used, in some cases, to treat patients with moderate to severe eczema. Some side effects include nausea, dizziness, joint pain and mild rashes.

Biologics can be given using intravenous (IV) injections or subcutaneous (through the skin) injections. For dupilumab, injections can be self-administered and taken in combination with or without topical corticosteroids for treating atopic dermatitis. Omalizumab injections are administered by your doctor every 2 to 4 weeks.

Because these drugs are so advanced and highly specialized, biologics are very expensive. Affordability may depend on your insurance provider. But because moderate to severe eczema is such a debilitating disease both emotionally and physically, the potential positive effects a biologic can have on a patient’s mental health may offset the cost. When biologics relieve the physical symptoms, trials have shown that the mental stress of the patient is eased as well.

Looking Ahead

With the success biologics have had in treating eczema, research efforts are actively underway to discover newer and even more specific biological medications. If you have moderate to severe eczema and have trouble controlling your symptoms, it’s worth discussing the possibility of biological therapy with your dermatologist.

THIS CONTENT DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. This content is provided for informational purposes and reflects the opinions of the author. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional regarding your health. If you think you may have a medical emergency, contact your doctor immediately or call 911.

Lavanya Krishnan, MD

Lavanya Krishnan, MD, is a board-certified cosmetic and general dermatologist currently practicing in San Francisco.
View her Healthgrades profile >

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© 2017 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

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