A systematic review of treatments for atopic dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is a very common inflammatory skin disease, particularly in children. A systematic review of randomised controlled trials of treatments for atopic dermatitis (AD) was carried out to assess how many trials exist, what they cover, what they do not cover, the research gaps, provide a 'blue print' for future Cochrane Reviews and assist those making treatment recommendations by summarising the available RCT evidence, using descriptive statistics. The Cochrane Collaboration systematic review process formed the basis of the methodology, from which over 4000 studies were located via electronic database searches and hand searching of journals. A total of 292 trials were finally included covering 9 treatment groups and over 48 individual treatments. There are lots of trials covering lots of interventions but gaps are evident. However, there is evidence of a benefit in the treatment of atopic dermatitis with topical corticosteroids, psychological approaches, UV light, ascomycin derivatives, topical tacrolimus and oral cyclosporin. Treatments that show limited evidence of a benefit include non-sedatory antihistamines, topical doxepin, the oral antibiotic Cefadroxil on clinically infected AD, the topical antibacterial Mupirocin on clinically uninfected AD, Chinese herbs, hypnotherapy and biofeedback, massage therapy, dietary manipulation, house dust mite reduction, patient education, emollients, allergen antibody complexes of house dust mite and thymic extracts. Treatments that show no evidence of benefit include sedatory antihistamines, oral sodium cromoglycate, oral antibiotics on clinically uninfected AD, topical antibacterials, topical antifungals, aromatherapy essential oils, borage oil, fish oil, evening primrose oil, enzyme-free clothes detergent, cotton clothing, house dust mite hyposensitisation, salt baths, topical coal tar, topical cyclosporin and platelet-activating-factor antagonist. When interpreting the conclusions of this thesis it is important to understand that lack of evidence does not equal lack of efficacy, particularly considering the interventions that are commonly in use today to treat atopic dermatitis that have not been subjected to RCTs, such as occlusive dressings, water softening devices and stress management among many others.