What is Eczema?
Atopic dermatitis (AD), better known as eczema, is a condition in which red (or on darker skin tones, sometimes brown or purple), itchy patches of skin flare up on various parts of the body. As a chronic condition, eczema tends to flare periodically, sometimes coupled with asthma and/or hay fever.
According to the National Eczema Association, an estimated 31.6 million people (more than 10% in the U.S.) have eczema. Atopic dermatitis typically presents in childhood, affecting approximately 9.6 million U.S. children — of which a third have moderate to severe disease. The prevalence of childhood eczema has steadily increased from 8% to close to 12% since 1997.
Eczema is generally brought on by an allergen or irritant in the environment triggering an overreactive immune response. This overreaction of the immune system creates inflammation on the skin, producing eczema.
Because atopic dermatitis is a symptom of an overreactive immune response, there is a possibility that eczema is caused by an autoimmune disease. Genetic factors can play a role in having eczema, especially if dry skin is present in one’s genetic makeup. Many common household items are also potential environmental irritants and can cause allergic reactions leading to an eczema flare. Additional common triggers of eczema may include:
- Extended exposure to extreme heat or cold, dry air
- Some types of soaps and other cleansers
- Chemical additives in laundry detergents, surface cleansers, and disinfectants
- Certain fabrics like wool or polyester in clothing and sheets
- Natural liquids like the juice from fruit, vegetables, and meats
- Fragrances in candles
Current Treatments for Eczema
While there is no cure for atopic dermatitis, there are numerous treatment options for the condition. Many oral and topical prescription medications, as well as over-the-counter products, are available to reduce the inflammation and flare ups associated with dermatitis. Additionally, phototherapy (light therapy), immunosuppressants, and injectable medications have been demonstrated to treat eczema. Experts also suggest keeping skin hydrated and moisturized to minimize itching associated with eczema.
Recently, a new injection to treat severe eczema made headlines for receiving FDA approval. Dupilumab (Dupixent from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals) is the first monoclonal antibody (MAB) treatment to be approved for use against severe atopic dermatitis cases. Monoclonal antibodies are molecules produced in a laboratory to serve as substitute antibodies that can restore, enhance, modify, or mimic the immune system’s attack on cells that aren’t wanted. MABs are used in a variety of current and potential therapies and vaccines intended to treat conditions ranging from cancer, to COVID-19, to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Monoclonal antibodies, though, may just be one of the first innovative therapies that may soon be available for eczema sufferers.
Atopic Dermatitis Clinical Research
There are dozens of ongoing clinical trials to study new potential treatments for eczema. The studies range from investigational pills targeting inflammatory immune responses to investigational topical ointments, sprays, and creams. These eczema research studies provide hope that a better understanding of the causes of atopic dermatitis — and potentially better treatments — will be available within the next decade.
Meridian is currently conducting clinical trials for investigational medications intended to treat eczema. The goal of these clinical trials is to study the safety and efficacy of these investigational products intended to treat atopic dermatitis.
Eczema Clinical Trials at Meridian
Healthline, The Seven Types of Eczema
National Eczema Association, What is Eczema
The Mayo Clinic, Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)
Medical News Today, Is Eczema an Autoimmune Disease
The Pharmaceutical Journal, FDA Approves First Monoclonal Antibody Injection for Atopic Dermatitis
The Mayo Clinic, Monoclonal Antibodies