Background Atopic dermatitis (AD) is characterized both by inflammation and by abnormally low ceramide levels in the stratum corneum. Tacrolimus, effective in the treatment of AD, inhibits transcription and release of inflammatory cytokines operative in AD, but it is unknown if tacrolimus normalizes ceramide levels.
Methods Stratum corneum ceramides of seven subjects with lesional AD were measured before and after treatment with tacrolimus ointment.
Results Treatment with tacrolimus ointment did not increase the ceramide fractions toward or to normal.
Conclusion These findings suggest that tacrolimus ointment is effective in the treatment of atopic dermatitis due to its anti-inflammatory actions rather than to any restorative effect on stratum corneum ceramides.