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Researchers Discover Eczema Subtypes

A newly-discovered eczema subtype may be linked to asthma and allergies.
Published Online: Dec 05,2017
Laurie Toich, Assistant Editor
Physicians and their patients understand that eczema varies from person to person, with some experiencing a mild disease and others with more severe symptoms. New research published by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology described the subtypes of the disease among children to increase the potential for targeted treatments in the future.

The authors of the study discovered a novel class of eczema that occurs around 6 years of age and is linked to asthma, which was previously unknown.  

"This research study has confirmed that eczema is a very diverse disease, and it's provided evidence of distinctly different trajectories, including a group that hadn't previously been recognized [sic], in whom eczema develops for the first time around 6 years of age and is often associated with asthma,” said researcher Sara Brown.

Additionally, the authors uncovered genetic risk factors for a subtype of eczema. 

"We've also shown that genetic risk factors contribute to the most troublesome and long-lasting eczema, so these patients can be our focus for future research to improve care,” Brown said. “It's also important evidence that we need to consider which subtypes of eczema may respond to which treatments in clinical trials to ensure the right children get the right treatment in future."

Included in the study were 13,500 pediatric patients from birth up to 16 years of age, 40% of whom developed eczema.

The results of the statistical analysis showed that eczema that starts in infancy but resolves is very different than eczema that is developed later or becomes chronic, according to the study.

The groups were:
  • Eczema begins in infancy and does not resolve.
  • Eczema begins in infancy and persists throughout childhood.
  • Eczema begins in infancy and resolves in early childhood.
  • Eczema begins in mid-childhood and resolves in later childhood.
  • Eczema begins in late childhood and then resolves.
The authors discovered that one-third of pediatric patients with eczema develop the condition after birth and typically resolve it by age 5.

However, for 1 in 8 children whose disease does not resolve, eczema lasts into adulthood. These children were also more likely to have family members with eczema, asthma, or allergies, according to the study. 

Another study showed that common genetic factors were shared among several allergic conditions, including asthma, hay fever, and eczema.

"We've found some evidence of what might cause children to suffer from different subtypes of eczema, but we still need to do a lot more work to understand this further and work out how we can use this information in the clinic to better help patients,” said researcher Lavinia Paternoster, PhD.

Understanding the subtypes of eczema may lead to more targeted treatments and better patient outcomes, according to the authors.

"This is a fantastic step forward for research on eczema in children. Families are desperate for clues about their specific circumstances and hope for the future,” said Magali Redding, CEO of Eczema Outreach Scotland. "To families of children suffering from eczema, research results like this paper on sub-groups of patients provide much needed hope for a clearer prognosis and ultimately better treatments.”