WAIKOLOA, HAWAII (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) The list of nonatopic comorbid conditions associated with atopic dermatitis is rapidly expanding.

Just in the past year, published studies have linked pediatric atopic dermatitis to increased risks of obesity, high blood pressure, headaches, anemia, and speech disorders. Meanwhile, adult atopic dermatitis was reported to be associated with increased rates of fracture and cardiovascular disease. And in the dermatologic arena, a link between atopic dermatitis, vitiligo, and alopecia areata was identified, Dr. Lawrence F. Eichenfield noted at the Hawaii Dermatology Seminar provided by the Global Academy for Medical Education/Skin Disease Education Foundation.

Actually, these reported associations published in 2015-2016 might best be termed “emerging comorbidities,” as they are first reports and thus need confirmation, said Dr. Eichenfield, professor of dermatology and pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego, and chief of pediatric and adolescent dermatology at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego.

Much of this work on emerging comorbidities has been done by dermatologist Dr. Jonathan I. Silverberg of Northwestern University, Chicago, and various coinvestigators. They have been prolific.

For example, in a multivariate logistic regression analysis of 207,007 children and adolescents included in the cross-sectional 1997-2013 U.S. National Health Interview Survey , Dr. Silverberg and coinvestigators found that eczema was independently associated with a 1.83-fold increased odds of anemia. They bolstered this observation with an analysis of more than 30,000 children and adolescents in the 1992-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in which they found that current eczema was associated with a 1.93-fold increased odds of anemia, particularly microcytic anemia. The underlying mechanism is unknown; however, the investigators noted that chronic inflammation and systemic immunosuppressant drugs have been shown to be associated with anemia ( JAMA Pediatr. 2016;170[1]:29-34 ).

Dr. Silverberg also found in a multivariate logistic regression analysis of data on more than 400,000 pediatric participants in the National Survey of Children’s Health and the National Health Interview Survey that mild and severe eczema were independently associated with 1.79-fold and 2.72-fold, respectively, increased odds of headaches ( J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2016 Feb;137[2]:492-9 ).

Using these same two data sources, with multivariate analysis adjusted for potential confounders, the investigators found that eczema was associated with a 1.81-fold increased risk of speech disorder ( J Pediatr. 2016 Jan;168:185-92 ).

In a case-control study involving 132 children and adolescents with current moderate to severe atopic dermatitis and 143 healthy controls, Dr. Silverberg and coinvestigators found in a logistic regression analysis that atopic dermatitis was independently associated with a doubled risk of having a systolic blood pressure in the 90th percentile or higher – as well as 3.92-fold increased odds of central obesity, as defined by a waist circumference in the 85th percentile or higher ( JAMA Dermatol. 2015 Feb;151[2]:144-52 ).

In a systematic review and meta-analysis of 16 published vitiligo studies and 17 published studies of alopecia areata, Dr. Silverberg and medical student Girish C. Mohan found that patients with vitiligo or alopecia areata were respectively 7.8 and 2.6 times more likely to have atopic dermatitis than controls without those disorders ( JAMA Dermatol. 2015 May;151[5]:522-8 ).

In a logistic regression analysis of data on 34,500 adults with a history of eczema within the prior year who participated in the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, Drs. Nitin Garg and Dr. Silverberg concluded that the results suggested that adult atopic dermatitis is a previously unrecognized risk factor for fracture and other bone or joint injuries causing limitation. Adults with atopic dermatitis were at a 1.67-fold increased risk for such injuries in an analysis controlling for sociodemographics, other forms of atopic disease, and psychiatric and behavioral disorders ( JAMA Dermatol. 2015 Jan;151[1]:33-41 ).

In another large cross-sectional study, Dr. Silverberg found that adults with atopic dermatitis had significantly higher odds of a history of acute MI, coronary artery disease, heart failure, and stroke ( Allergy. 2015 Oct;70[10]:1300-8 ).

Dr. Eichenfield said that while he would like to see these hot-off-the-presses 2015-2016 findings on nonatopic comorbidities backed up by confirmatory studies in other populations, the evidence is stronger for an association between pediatric atopic dermatitis and several mental health disorders. The initial reports came mainly from Europe, but were then supported by a large study by Dr. Eric L. Simpson and coinvestigators at Oregon Health and Science University, Portland.

In their analysis of data on nearly 93,000 noninstitutionalized children and adolescents included in the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health, the investigators found after controlling for potential confounders that atopic dermatitis was associated with a 1.87-fold increased risk of having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, a 3-fold increased risk of diagnosed autism, an adjusted 1.81-fold increase in depression, and 1.87-fold increased odds of conduct disorder. The Oregon group found a clear dose-dependent relationship between the reported severity of the skin disease and the likelihood of those mental health disorders ( J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013 Feb;131[2]:428-33 ).

The hope is that emerging strategies to prevent atopic dermatitis or aggressively treat it early on will reduce the risk of many of these comorbid conditions, Dr. Eichenfield said.

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