Atopic dermatitis and psoriasis can take a devastating toll on pediatric and adolescent patients and their families, but a deeper understanding of these skin conditions is helping patients better manage them and potentially prevent associated medical conditions, according to research presented at the American Academy of Dermatology’s Summer 2012 meeting in Boston.

“Atopic dermatitis and psoriasis can have a significant impact on children and families, which is why further research in understanding and managing these skin conditions is so critical,” says Lawrence F. Eichenfield, MD, a pediatric dermatologist and chief of the division of pediatric and adolescent dermatology and professor of pediatrics and medicine (dermatology) at Rady Children’s Hospital and University of California at the San Diego School of Medicine.“The recognition that atopic dermatitis and psoriasis are associated with other potentially serious medical conditions has fueled research in new therapies to manage these conditions.” Eichenfield made his comments in a press release.

Research in atopic dermatitis has shown that there is an increased incidence of asthma, hay fever and food allergies in these patients. In the last few years, studies have shown how small genetic mutations in proteins present in the epidermis create a fundamental problem in how it functions. These small mutations are very common in people with dry skin, leading researchers to believe that the mutations are responsible for dry skin and can subsequently lead to eczema. What’s more, emerging information is now pointing to certain mental health disorders associated with atopic dermatitis. Specifically, it has been found that there are higher rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children with atopic dermatitis – with more severe cases of this skin condition associated with a higher chance of developing ADHD.

Understanding Psoriasis

Psoriasis is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and higher rates of obesity in adults. Data currently shows higher obesity rates in children with psoriasis, as well as diabetes, lipid abnormalities, and hypertension. Another study found that a greater number of children with psoriasis had abnormal liver function tests or fasting glucose or lipid levels. Specifically, 45 percent of psoriasis patients had at least one of these risk factors of cardiovascular disease compared to less than one-third of patients without psoriasis.

According to Eichenfield, future research should examine the impact of inflammation over time and whether obesity is causing higher rates of psoriasis or if they are occurring together. In addition, children with psoriasis should be assessed for cardiovascular risk factors to try to decrease these risks in adulthood.

[Source: American Academy of Dermatology Summer Academy Meeting 2012 ]