This study aimed to determine the efficacy of acupuncture in reducing pruritus intensity, disease severity, and medication use, and improving quality of life.
Methods. This was a patient- and assessor-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Patients diagnosed with atopic dermatitis underwent twice-weekly acupuncture for 12 weeks, with an 8-week follow-up period. Baseline and weekly assessment were done using standard data collection forms and validated assessment tools.
Results. Thirty patients were randomized and 28 patients were eligible for the efficacy analysis. There were no significant differences in the baseline demographic and clinical characteristics between the True Acupuncture group (TA) (n=16) and Sham Acupuncture group (SA) (n=12). Both groups showed reduction in mean itch intensity (visual analogue scale, VAS) (p=0.024) but TA showed greater reduction (p=0.009) that was sustained after end of treatment. There was also a reduction in medication use in both groups. The comparable efficacy of SA to TA is attributed to similar peripheral receptive fields and stimulation of cutaneous C-fibers which depletes the neurotransmitters mediating pruritus and results in tachyphylaxis. Mild adverse events, such as petechiae and erythema, were noted in both groups and resolved spontaneously.
Conclusion. Acupuncture is a promising adjunct treatment in atopic dermatitis with significant reduction in pruritus, disease severity and medication use and a trend towards improved quality of life.