Background Standard treatment of atopic dermatitis (AD) is based on topical glucocorticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors to treat flares combined with moisturizer treatment to alleviate dry skin symptoms. Patients with AD have an abnormal skin barrier function, and strategies for reducing the risks for eczema would be to repair the barrier or prevent barrier dysfunction.
Objectives The objective of this study was to explore the time to relapse of eczema during a 26-week maintenance treatment with a urea containing moisturizer compared to no treatment (neither medical nor non-medicated preparations) after successful clearing of atopic lesions. The moisturizer has previously been shown to improve skin barrier function.
Methods Patients applied betamethasone valerate (0.1%) on eczematous lesions during a 3-week period. Those with cleared eczema entered a 26-week maintenance phase, applying the moisturizer or left the previously affected area untreated. Upon eczema relapse, patients were instructed to contact the clinic and to have the relapse confirmed by the investigator.
Results Fifty-five patients entered the study and 44 patients were included in the maintenance phase (22 using moisturizer twice daily and 22 using no treatment). Median time to relapse for patients treated with moisturizer was > 180 days (duration of the study) compared with 30 days for the no-treatment group. Sixty-eight per cent of the patients treated with the moisturizer and 32% of the untreated patients remained free from eczema during the observation period.
Conclusions Maintenance treatment with a barrier-improving urea moisturizer on previous eczematous areas reduced the risk of relapse to approximately one third of that of no treatment.