Atopic Dermatitis: Epidemiology of Atopic Dermatitis
Vincent S. Beltrani, MD, Mark Boguneiwicz, MD
Posted: 05/02/2003; Dermatology Online Journal. 2003;9(2) © 2003 Arthur C. Huntley, MD
Epidemiology of Atopic Dermatitis
Epidemiology concerns the occurrence and the risk factors of a disease, and epidemiologic study can influence genetic counseling and research aims. Combining diverse expertise from the fields of epidemiology and human genetics provides unique opportunities to localize disease-susceptibility genes and examine molecular mechanisms of complex disease etiology.
Until diagnostic criteria are standardized, validated, and applied universally, the true prevalence of AD will continue to be imprecise, thus varying between 10% and 30%. Factors contributing to the problem of determining prevalence are frequent remissions and unpredictable courses, especially in mild AD. Most of the population-based studies report that at least 80% of the AD populations have mild eczema.[8,9,10] Yet, recent studies using similar procedures and assessments demonstrate a definite trend toward the increase in AD cases in industrialized nations over the past few decades.[11,12] Newer treatment options have also changed the natural history of AD.
Relatively few studies have focused on potential,initiating risk factors, but the strongest risk factor is a parental history of atopy or eczema. Maternal atopy is considered a greater risk for atopic disorders in offspring than paternal atopy. AD and atopy in general seem to be diseases of the advantaged classes. The prevalence of AD is inversely related to the number of siblings. The larger the family size, the less the likelihood of having AD.