According to HCP Live, a new study may have discovered a connection between severe pediatric atopic dermatitis and learning disabilities. Researchers, spearheaded by Dr. Joy Wan, MD, MSCE from the University of Pennsylvania (“UPenn”) Perelman School of Medicine, sought out to understand how pediatric patients are affected by their atopic dermatitis symptoms. Ultimately, while the research does not infer causality (i.e. that one condition causes the others), they do recommend that children with severe atopic dermatitis undergo screenings to determine how it might be impacting them in other areas. Check out the full research published in JAMA Dermatology.
According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA):
Learning disabilities are due to genetic and/or neurobiological factors that alter brain functioning in a manner which affects one or more cognitive processes related to learning. These processing problems can interfere with learning basic skills such as reading, writing and/or math [or] higher level skills such as organization, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short term memory and attention.
The LDA continues that there are various forms of learning disabilities, including:
- Non-verbal learning disabilities
- Oral/written language disorder
For the purpose of this research, Dr. Wan and her team defined learning disabilities as any disorder or condition which would:
- Impair learning
- Lead to poor mental health
- Prevent children from reaching their intended level of educational achievement
- Lead to worse occupational outcomes down the line
During the research, researchers sourced data from 2,074 pediatric patients with severe atopic dermatitis. They received their data from the Pediatric Eczema Elective Registry (PEER). Ultimately, researchers decided to evaluate atopic dermatitis in relation to learning disabilities based on previous research. In the past, researchers have identified associations between severe pediatric atopic dermatitis and issues with attention and memory. Further, due to the itch caused by dermatological symptoms, many patients are unable to achieve a full and fulfilling night of sleep.
The data was sourced from logs over a 4 year period. Ultimately, patients had their data included in the registry at an average 6 years old, with an average 16.1 years old during the follow-up period. Slightly more than 50% of patients were female. In terms of racial makeup, the highest percentage demographic were Black children, followed by white children. Ultimately, the research showed that:
- 8.2% of patients, during the follow-up period, reported some sort of learning disability.
- Those with moderate atopic dermatitis were more likely to have a learning disability than other groups, although those with severe atopic dermatitis were also extremely likely to have learning disabilities in some form.
- Altogether, learning disabilities were also found to be more common in pediatric patients with:
- Depression and anxiety
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Sleep difficulties
- Other behavioral issues
Severe Atopic Dermatitis
While there is no clear cause for severe atopic dermatitis (eczema), many researchers believe the skin condition is caused by a mix of environmental and genetic elements. Those with this itchy, dry skin condition also often have other allergies. While atopic dermatitis is common in children and adolescents, it can occur at any age. In fact, up to 30% of Americans are believed to have atopic dermatitis in some form. Certain triggers may worsen the condition, including living in drier climates; having an infection; being stressed out or highly emotional; using certain types of dyes or fragrances; being exposed to irritating chemicals; or even showering without immediately moisturizing. Symptoms include:
- Dry, itchy skin which may weep clear fluid
- More frequent skin infections
- Itching which worsens at night
- Skin thickening or cracking
- Red/brown/gray patches on the skin
- Skin inflammation
Learn more about severe atopic dermatitis.