Atopic Dermatitis Incidence High Among US Adults


A new study shows high prevalence of atopic dermatitis among adults, illustrating the need for more available treatment options.

Atopic dermatitis (AD) incidence among the population is much higher than other inflammatory conditions, such as psoriasis, yet there is only 1 FDA-approved treatment for the condition, according to a new study.

The study, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, shows high prevalence of AD among US adults, with an estimated 16.5 million individuals living with the disease. The study authors aimed to determine AD prevalence among US adults, disease severity, and the impact of AD on quality of life.

AD, a chronic inflammatory skin disease, is commonly associated with children but can occur at any age. Although AD affects 7% of the population, there is currently only 1 FDA-approved treatment, according to the study. The study also showed that psoriasis, which currently has 8 biologic treatments available, affects 3% of the population.

For the study, the researchers surveyed 1278 adults from the GfK Knowledge Panel, a probability-based online panel. Among the respondents, 7.3% met the criteria for diagnosis of AD. Sixty percent of those with AD classified as mild, 29% as moderate, and 11% as severe.

Using US census data, the researchers projected that 16.5 million American adults are currently living with AD, of whom 6.6 million have cases classified as moderate-to-severe. The study also showed that patients with AD and those with more severe disease had higher scores in other patient-reported outcomes measures, suggesting a worse effect from their disease on quality of life and an increased likelihood of anxiety or depression.

According to the results, adult patients with AD had higher rates of anxiety or depression versus patients with psoriasis, with approximately 22% of adults with AD who had clinical symptoms of anxiety or depression. High disease burden in adults with AD was comparable to that of patients with psoriasis.

“We tend to think of this disease as a children’s disease, but our data show that’s not the case,” lead study author Zelma C. Chiesa Fuxench, MD, MSCE, assistant professor of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a press release.

According to the researchers, increased awareness of AD’s prevalence in adults can help lead to more timely diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, the researchers emphasized the need for increased development of systemic therapies.

“Topical and oral corticosteroids don’t work for everyone, and even when they do, patients should not be on them long-term,” Dr Fuxench said. “We need to prioritize our understanding of this complex disease as well as the development of innovative therapies for these patients.”


Fuxench ZC, Block J, Boguniewicz M, et al. Atopic dermatitis in American study: a cross-sectional study examining the prevalence and disease burden of atopic dermatitis in the US adult population. The Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2018.

Not Just for Children: Study Shows High Prevalence of Atopic Dermatitis among US Adults [news release]. Penn Medicine’s website. Accessed October 30, 2018.

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