Crisaborole (Eucrisa) for Eczema: Side Effects and Tips for Management | MyEczemaTeam

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Crisaborole (Eucrisa) for Eczema: Side Effects and Tips for Management

Medically reviewed by Steven Devos, M.D., Ph.D.
Posted on September 14, 2023

If you’re one of the millions of people living with atopic dermatitis, the most common subtype of eczema, you understand the struggle of finding a treatment that works without causing frustrating side effects. More than 300 MyEczemaTeam members have used crisaborole (Eucrisa), and many have asked questions about this medicated ointment. “Any experience with Eucrisa?” one member asked. “Are there any bad side effects from it? Does it help with healing?”

In this article, we’ll explore how crisaborole works to manage eczema, discuss potential side effects, and provide tips for managing them.

What Is Crisaborole?

In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Eucrisa to treat mild to moderate atopic dermatitis in people at least 3 months old. Crisaborole is a topical medication — it’s applied to the skin.

How Crisaborole Works

The symptoms of eczema are caused by inflammation in the skin. One molecule involved in this tissue-damaging process is an enzyme called phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE-4). Crisaborole is a PDE-4 inhibitor — the drug blocks the inflammatory enzyme to reduce the underlying inflammation.

It’s crucial to apply crisaborole only to affected areas, as directed by your health care provider. Sticking to these directions helps avoid unnecessary exposure and potential side effects.

How To Use Crisaborole

For crisaborole to be as effective as possible, it’s vital to use it as directed. Typically, crisaborole is applied twice daily unless your health care provider tells you otherwise. Once your eczema symptoms have diminished, you may consider using the ointment just once a day.

Follow these steps for safe application:

  1. Bathe or wash the affected area with mild soap and water, then pat dry, immediately before applying crisaborole.
  2. Apply a thin layer using clean hands, gently massaging the ointment until it’s fully absorbed. Avoid putting crisaborole on broken or irritated skin.
  3. Wash your hands as soon as you’re done (unless you’re treating eczema on your hands).

Avoid getting crisaborole in your eyes or mouth, and don’t apply it to your genital region. Contact your dermatologist if you have questions about how to use crisaborole safely.

Effectiveness of Crisaborole

Clinical trial results published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2016 showed that crisaborole significantly improved itching, discoloration, and overall eczema severity compared with a nonmedicated ointment. Side effects of crisaborole were rare, mild, and didn’t last long.

In 2018, researchers reported that in two similar studies involving a total of more than 1,500 people with atopic dermatitis, participants given crisaborole had improved quality-of-life scores compared with those who used a nonmedicated ointment. The crisaborole users’ family members, including caregivers of children with eczema, also reported a boost in quality of life.

These results show that crisaborole can improve eczema symptoms and general well-being in adults and children alike. Both studies were done in people ages 2 years and older, but since 2020, crisaborole has been approved for use in infants who are at least 3 months old.

However, individual responses vary, so it’s essential to discuss your condition with your doctor regularly. Because crisaborole is approved to treat mild to moderate eczema, it may not be an appropriate choice for severe cases.

Side Effects and Tips for Management

In studies, fewer than 4 percent of participants who used crisaborole developed any of the possible side effects — a burning sensation, worsening eczema, or a skin infection.

Burning Sensation

The most common side effect of crisaborole ointment is application site pain, a burning sensation that’s usually mild but can be extremely uncomfortable. One member said, “My daughter can’t tolerate the stinging of Eucrisa … not worth it for us.”

To avoid this side effect, the American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends keeping crisaborole refrigerated and using an eczema-friendly moisturizer 15 minutes after applying the medication. If the burning becomes severe or intolerable, stop using crisaborole and consult your health care provider.

Allergic Reaction

In rare cases, an allergic reaction may occur. Watch for symptoms such as:

  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Chest tightness
  • Difficulty breathing

If you suspect an allergic reaction after using crisaborole, seek emergency medical attention immediately, and don’t use the ointment again.

Patch testing before trying crisaborole is a good idea, as one member advised: “Do a skin test first.” You could also apply the ointment to just a small area of affected skin before using it widely.

Minimizing Side Effects

To minimize side effects, consider the following tips:

  • Avoid using crisaborole on open wounds or broken skin.
  • Don’t combine crisaborole with other topical medications without consulting your health care provider.
  • Stay consistent with the application schedule your doctor advises.
  • Talk to your doctor if you don’t notice a difference in your eczema symptoms after four weeks of recommended use.

Next Steps if You Experience Side Effects

If you experience any side effects while using crisaborole, the first step is to talk to your health care provider. They can evaluate your symptoms and make appropriate changes. Depending on the severity of your side effects, your doctor may adjust the dosing, switch medications, or recommend additional treatments. They might suggest alternating crisaborole with a topical corticosteroid (steroid) — applying one medication in the morning and the other one in the evening — to avoid the burning sensation and other side effects from crisaborole.

An effective treatment plan will produce the greatest symptom relief with the fewest side effects, allowing you to live well with eczema. Always talk with your dermatologist before stopping or changing your eczema medication.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyEczemaTeam is the social network for people with eczema and their loved ones. On MyEczemaTeam, more than 49,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with eczema.

Have you used crisaborole to manage your eczema? If you developed any side effects, how did you manage them? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Posted on September 14, 2023
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

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Steven Devos, M.D., Ph.D. received his medical degree and completed residency training in dermatology at the University of Ghent, Belgium. Learn more about him here
Scarlett Bergam, M.P.H. is a medical student at George Washington University and a former Fulbright research scholar in Durban, South Africa. Learn more about her here

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