Guidelines for management of atopic dermatitis


Masutaka Furue, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Dermatology, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Kyushu University, 3-3-1 Maidashi Higashi-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka 812-8582, Japan. Email:


Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic relapsing eczematous skin disease characterized by pruritus and inflammation and accompanied by cutaneous physiological dysfunction (dry and barrier-disrupted skin). Most of the patients have atopic diathesis. A standard guideline for the management (diagnosis, severity classification and therapy) of AD has been established. In our guideline, the necessity of dermatological training is emphasized in order to assure diagnostic skill and to enable evaluation of the severity of AD. The definitive diagnosis of AD requires the presence of all three features: (i) pruritus; (ii) typical morphology and distribution; and (iii) chronic and chronically relapsing course. For the severity classification of AD, three elements of eruption (erythema/acute papules, exudation/crusts and chronic papules/nodules/lichenification) are evaluated in the most severely affected part of each of the five body regions (head/neck, anterior trunk, posterior trunk, upper limbs and lower limbs). The areas of eruption on the five body regions are also evaluated, and both scores are totaled (maximum 60 points). The present standard therapies for AD consist of the use of topical corticosteroids and tacrolimus ointment as the main treatment for the inflammation, topical application of emollients to treat the cutaneous physiological dysfunction, systemic antihistamines and anti-allergic drugs as adjunctive treatments for pruritus, avoidance of apparent exacerbating factors, psychological counseling and advice about daily life. Tacrolimus ointment (0.1%) and its low-density ointment (0.03%) are available for adult patients and 2–15-year-old patients, respectively. The importance of the correct selection of topical corticosteroids according to the severity of the eruption is also emphasized. Furthermore, deliberate use of oral cyclosporine for severe recalcitrant adult AD is referred.