JAK inhibitors represent an emerging treatment for eczema and several other immune-mediated conditions. These medications help reduce inflammation, which can improve the symptoms associated with conditions such as eczema.

JAK inhibitors are a type of medication that helps block the immune system’s response, potentially reducing the severity of eczema.

Eczema is a type of inflammatory skin disease. The condition causes patches of itchy, dry rashes and blisters to occur on the skin. The treatment options include light therapy, over-the-counter medications, topical creams, and systemic medications, such as biologics.

JAK inhibitors are the latest type of treatment to show great promise in helping reduce eczema severity. This article reviews what JAK inhibitors are, how they work, and how they may help with eczema.

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To understand how JAK inhibitors work, a person must first understand the mechanisms the medication targets.

The immune system uses proteins called cytokines to send and receive messages throughout the body. These small proteins attach to receptors on the janus kinase-signal transducer and activators of transcription pathway, known as the JAK-STAT pathway.

When the cytokines attach to receptors, this can drive an abnormal immune response associated with conditions such as eczema, psoriatic disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

JAK inhibitors work by blocking the attachment of cytokines to these receptors. When the cytokines have no binding site, the immune system does not produce as much inflammation, which can reduce the severity of a person’s symptoms.

JAK inhibitors can quickly target one of four members of the JAK family. By helping slow or prevent the immune system’s response, they can positively affect eczema symptoms.

JAK inhibitors may lead to improvements in a person’s eczema symptoms. In a 2021 study, researchers found that using JAK inhibitors helped rapidly reduce itchiness and significantly reduced the number of inflammatory lesions on the skin.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved a few JAK inhibitors for use with eczema:

Other JAK inhibitors currently under investigation in the United States include baricitinib (Olumiant) and delgocitinib (Corectim).

According to a 2021 review of clinical trials that looked at baricitinib, abrocitinib, and upadacitinib, each JAK inhibitor performed well in treating eczema.

The authors note that most also showed signs of being generally safe to use. However, they say that additional real-world trials are necessary to test this type of treatment’s overall safety, longevity, and effectiveness.

In treating eczema, doctors can prescribe oral or topical JAK inhibitors, although some are still undergoing clinical trials.

According to a 2021 study, oral forms of the medication may be useful for people with moderate to severe eczema. Topical forms, including ruxolitinib and delgocitinib, may serve as an adjunct therapy alongside a systemic treatment. Alternatively, people can use them on localized eczema lesions.

The National Eczema Association cautions that it will take time to determine the optimal use and safety of both oral and topical treatments. Doctors must confirm the best ways to administer oral or topical treatments to their patients.

In clinical trials, JAK inhibitors have shown great promise for helping with eczema symptoms. The benefits may include a significant reduction in the number and severity of skin lesions and a rapid reduction of itchiness. A person may notice this reduction in as little as 12 hours for topical applications and 3 days for oral doses.

In short, a person should notice clearer skin and reduced itchiness when using either oral or topical JAK inhibitors to treat eczema.

As with all medications, a person may experience side effects when using JAK inhibitors. The use of oral medication may increase the risk of systemic side effects compared with a localized, topical treatment.

Possible side effects include:

  • headaches
  • acne
  • nausea
  • swelling of the nasal passages
  • upper respiratory tract infections
  • swelling in the back of the throat

In most cases, the side effects are mild and decrease in severity over time.

It is important to note that people who use JAK inhibitors for rheumatoid arthritis have also reported:

  • indigestion
  • diarrhea
  • higher cholesterol levels

In rare cases, people have also developed more serious side effects, including:

  • abnormal liver function
  • infections
  • decreased kidney function
  • abnormal blood counts
  • increased risk of bowel perforation

JAK inhibitors are a new medication for the treatment of eczema. Currently, the FDA has approved the use of only a few oral and topical JAK inhibitors for eczema, but additional approvals will likely occur soon.

JAK inhibitors can help block the immune system’s inflammatory response. The reduced immune response can help lessen the severity of eczema lesions and the number of lesions that occur.

Although they are generally safe, these medications can cause some side effects, which are often mild and decrease in severity over time.