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Atopic Dermatitis

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Atopic Dermatitis, Eczematous Dermatitis, Atopic Eczema, Eczema

  • Epidemiology
  1. Inherited sensitive skin (Atopic Patient)
  2. Incidence
    1. Affects 11-12% of children in U.S. and 7.2% of adults
    2. Affects 17.8 Million people in U.S.
    3. Most cases go undiagnosed
  3. Onset
    1. Typically presents with first 2 years of life (most often within first 6 months)
    2. Diagnosed in first 5 years in 90% of patients
    3. Many cases remit by age 3-5 years
  • Pathophysiology
  1. Disrupted Epidermis due to underlying filaggrin protein defect
    1. Filaggrin Gene (FLG) Defect
  2. Allows for Dermis immune cell exposure to environmental Antigens
    1. IgE Antibody response
    2. Increased T-helper 2 subtype activity (stimulate by Interleukin 4 and 13)
    3. Antigen-specific T-Cells secrete IgE binding factors
  3. Leads to inflammatory response
    1. Intense itching ensues due to a low itch threshold to provocative factors
    2. Scratching leads to further inflammation, resulting in a spiraling itch-scratch cycle
  • Types
  1. Acute Atopic Dermatitis
    1. Weeping, crusting lesions with overlying Vesicles
  2. Subacute Atopic Dermatitis
    1. Dry, Scaling, erythematous Papules and Plaques or
    2. Pityriasis Alba
  3. Chronic Atopic Dermatitis
    1. Lichenification (e.g. Lichen Simplex Chronicus)
  1. Eczematous Dermatitis (Atopic Dermatitis)
  2. Allergic Rhinitis
  3. Asthma
    1. Lifetime asthma Prevalence in patients with Atopic Dermatitis: 30%
  • Provocative Factors
  1. Sweating
  2. Bacterial colonization
  3. Rough clothing
  4. Chemical irritants
  5. Emotional Stress
  6. Foods
    1. Cow's milk
    2. Wheat
    3. Eggs
    4. Soy
    5. Peanut and tree nuts
    6. Fish
  7. Environment
    1. Dust or mold
    2. Cat dander
    3. Temperature changes
    4. Low humidity
  1. Described as "The itch that rashes" (when scratched)
  • Signs
  • Infants and young children
  1. Dermatitis characteristics
    1. Erythema and Edema
    2. Exudate
    3. Crusting
    4. Scaling
  2. Dermatitis Location
    1. Face (especially cheeks, hairline and behind ears)
    2. Scalp
    3. Trunk
    4. Extensor surface of arms and legs
  • Signs
  • Older children and adults
  1. Dermatitis characteristics
    1. Similar Eczematous skin changes as with infants
    2. "Hot and sweaty fossa and folds"
    3. Excoriated lesions (pruritic)
  2. Dermatitis Location
    1. Flexor wrists and ankles
    2. Antecubital fossa
    3. Popliteal fossa
    4. Hands
    5. Upper Eyelid Inflammation (erythema, fine scale and lichenification)
    6. Anogenital area
  • Diagnosis
  • American Academy of Dermatology Criteria
  1. Major Criteria (all required)
    1. Chronic or relapsing history
    2. Eczema
    3. Pruritus
    4. Age-specific patterns
      1. Infants: Face, neck and extensor surfaces
      2. Children: Flexor surface involvement
      3. Axillary region and groin spared
  2. Common Additional Findings (optional, but often observed in atopic)
    1. Atopy History (or Family History)
    2. Onset at early age
    3. IgE Reactivity
    4. Xerosis
  3. Non-specific Other Findings
    1. Ocular or periorbital changes
    2. Vascular findings
      1. Facial pallor
      2. Dermatographism
    3. Dry Skin findings
      1. Keratosis Pilaris
      2. Pityriasis Alba
      3. Ichthyosis
      4. Hyperlinear palms
    4. Sequelae of scratching
      1. Lichenification (e.g. Lichen Simplex Chronicus)
      2. Prurigo nodularis
      3. Perifollicular accentuation
  4. References
    1. Eichenfield (2014) J Am Acad Dermatol 70(2): 338-51 [PubMed]
  • Diagnosis
  • Diagnostic Tool
  1. Pruritus (Required) and
  2. Additional Criteria (3 or more of the following)
    1. Asthma or Allergic Rhinitis history
    2. Flexor fold involvement
    3. Flexor fold dermatitis visible on exam
    4. Generalized Dry Skin
    5. Onset of rash before age 2 years
  3. Efficacy
    1. Test Sensitivity: 95%
    2. Test Specificity: 97%
  4. References
    1. Brenninkmeijer (2008) Br J Dermatol 158(4): 754-65 [PubMed]
  • Complications (associated with intense scratching)
  1. Secondary infection
    1. Impetigo
    2. Cellulitis
    3. Eczema herpeticum (Kaposi varicelliform eruption)
      1. Painful papulovesicular rash spread over localized skin region
      2. Skin infected by Herpes Simplex Virus infection
  2. Direct scratching complications
    1. Lichen Simplex Chronicus
    2. Prurigo nodularis
  3. Infections (more common in atopy)
    1. Otitis Media
    2. Streptococcal Pharyngitis
    3. Urinary Tract Infections
  • Management
  • Dermatology referral indications
  1. Diagnosis uncertain
  2. Pruritus and other symptoms refractory to treatment (especially if impacting sleep, school or work attendance)
  3. Facial Eczematous Dermatitis refractory to treatment
  4. Severe Atopic Dermatitis
  5. Frequent exacerbations of Eczematous Dermatitis
  6. Severe or recurrent Skin Infections
  7. Systemic medications (immunosuppressive agents) required for maintenance or frequent exacerbations
  8. Allergic Contact Dermatitis (consider on face, Eyelids and hands)
  9. Allergen specific Immunotherapy considered (IgE >150 IU/ml)
  • Management
  • General Measures
  1. Chronic disease management
  2. Key primary measures
    1. See Pruritus Management
    2. See Dry Skin Management
      1. Includes Frequent skin Emollient use is paramount
    3. Allergan avoidance (limit to products free of perfume and clear of dye)
    4. Eliminate Environmental Allergens
  3. Atopic Dermatitis action plan (similar to Asthma Action Plan)
    1. Everyday Management (green zone)
      1. See Dry Skin Management
      2. Skin Lubricants (clear and free Emollients such as eucerin, vanicream, lubriderm) applied daily
      3. Bathing
        1. Take a daily, 5-10 min bath or shower with lukewarm water, soap-free cleanser (e.g. cetaphil)
        2. Pat dry after bathing and apply Skin Lubricant within 3 minutes
    2. Flare-Up Management (yellow zone)
      1. Continue green zone management
      2. Apply Topical Corticosteroid to affected areas twice daily
      3. Apply topical Calcineurin Inhibitor (e.g. Tacrolimus) to affected areas twice daily
    3. Severe Flare-Up, Infection or other complication (red zone)
      1. Continue green zone and yellow zone management
      2. Contact medical provider
  4. Infection Control
    1. Keep Fingernails short and clean
    2. Staphylococcus aureus colonization in 90% of Eczema
    3. Treat superinfection (Impetigo) as needed
    4. Consider intranasal Bactroban to reduce seeding
    5. Consider twice weekly dilute bleach bath
      1. Use 1/2 cup regular bleach (6%) in 40 gallons of water (half full standard bathtub)
  5. Feeding Changes (Very controversial and NOT recommended)
    1. Food allergan testing is associated with high False Positive Rates and unnecessary restrictive diets
    2. Common Antigens related to Eczema
      1. Milk, Soy, Egg, Peanut, Wheat
    3. Uncertain whether diet changes improve Eczema
    4. Consider eliminating for 1 month above Antigens
      1. Consider starting with cow's milk elimination
      2. Consider Soy-based formula if persists
      3. Consider formal Allergy Testing
  1. Consider instead of or in combination with alternative agents (e.g. Tacrolimus Ointment)
  2. General
    1. Limited use only for exacerbations
    2. Avoid Under-treatment
    3. Consider applying only at night (but typically applied twice daily)
    4. Start early for exacerbations
    5. Treat all palpable areas
    6. Ointments are preferred
      1. Better tolerated (less burning)
      2. Allergic Reaction to ointment base less common
      3. Helps moisten very Dry Skin
  3. Mild exacerbation
    1. Use for 3-4 days only
    2. Low potency Topical Steroid (e.g. Hydrocortisone 2.5% or Desonide 0.05%)
  4. Moderate exacerbation
    1. Taper over 2 weeks
      1. Use twice daily for 7 days, then
      2. Use once daily for 7 days
    2. For Face and Groin
      1. Limit to Level 5 Topical Corticosteroid or less
      2. Hydrocortisone (0.5%, 1%, 2.5%)
    3. For Eyelid
      1. Tridesilon 0.05% or Aclovate 0.05% ointment or cream applied twice daily for 5-10 days
      2. Consider Tacrolimus 0.1% ointment or Pimecrolimus 1% cream for refractory cases
        1. Risk of malignancy with longterm use (see below)
    4. For body (medium potency)
      1. Hydrocortisone valerate 0.2% (Westcort)
      2. Triamcinolone Acetonide 0.1% (Kenalog)
  5. Severe exacerbation
    1. High Potency Topical Steroids (e.g. Fluticasone)
      1. Fluocinonide 0.05% (Lidex)
      2. Amcinonide 0.1% (Cyclocort)
    2. Try to avoid Systemic Corticosteroids
    3. Consider maintenance Topical Steroid
      1. Low potency Topical Steroid daily or
      2. High potency steroid (eg. Fluticasone) twice weekly
        1. Berth-Jones (2003) BMJ 326:1367-70 [PubMed]
  • Management
  • Refractory to above therapies
  1. Anti-infective agents
    1. See Dilute bleach baths as above
    2. Indication: Impetigo type superinfection
    3. Staphylococcus aureus coverage
      1. Augmentin
      2. Cephalexin (Keflex)
      3. Erythromycin
      4. Dicloxacillin
    4. Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) coverage if suspected (see Eczema herpeticum under complications)
      1. Acyclovir
      2. Famciclovir
      3. Valacyclovir
  2. Systemic Corticosteroids
    1. Indicated
      1. Severe Eczema exacerbations
      2. Refractory to high potency Topical Steroid
    2. Precautions
      1. Limit use to 1-2 weeks
      2. Works too well (Derails Topical Steroid treatment)
  3. Miscellaneous agents
    1. Ultraviolet Phototherapy
      1. Narrow Band UV B Phototherapy
      2. PUVA has also been used
      3. Indicated in widespread refractory Atopic Dermatitis
    2. Accolate 20 mg PO bid
  4. Immunosuppressant (Topical and systemic agents)
    1. Calcineurin Inhibitors (topical)
      1. Highly effective agents
      2. Risk of skin malignancy or Lymphoma with prolonged use (FDA black box warning)
      3. Tacrolimus Ointment (Protopic)
        1. Tacrolimus 1% is approved for adults only, and is as effective as potent Topical Corticosteroids
        2. Tacrolimus 0.03% is approved for age 2 years old and older
      4. Pimecrolimus Cream (Elidel)
        1. Weaker, but may be better tolerated than the Tacrolimus Ointment
        2. Pimecrolimus 1% cream is approved for age 2 years and older
    2. Crisaborole Ointment (Eucrisa)
      1. Phosphodiesterase 4 Inhibitor
      2. Adjunct to moderate Eczema refractory to Corticosteroids for age >2 years old
      3. Apply in thin layer twice daily
      4. Expensive ($700/month)
      5. Paller (2016) J Am Acad Dermatol 75(3):494-503 +PMID: 27417017 [PubMed]
    3. Dupilumab (Dupixent)
      1. Injectable Monoclonal Antibody for age >12 years in refractory Eczema
      2. Effective, but very expensive ($3000/month)
      3. Ariens (2018) Ther Adv Chronic Dis 9(9): 159-70 [PubMed]
    4. Other agents
      1. Cyclosporine (Sandimmune)
      2. Azathioprine (Imuran)
      3. Methotrexate
      4. Hydroxyquinolone
      5. Tar Preparations