Dr. Joy Wan M.D., M.S.C.E. Assistant Professor of Dermatology Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Hopkins Study Evaluates Risk of Cognitive Impairment in Children with Atopic Dermatitis

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Joy Wan M.D., M.S.C.E.Assistant Professor of Dermatology Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Dr. Wan

DrJoy Wan M.D., M.S.C.E.
Assistant Professor of Dermatology
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: There has been a growing body of literature linking atopic dermatitis with diagnoses such as ADHD and learning disabilities, but studies focusing on symptoms of cognitive impairment (in contrast to relying on reported diagnoses as proxy measures of such) have been fewer and demonstrate inconsistent findings. Thus, we were interested in using data from this nationally representative sample of U.S. children to examine whether atopic dermatitis was associated with symptoms of learning or memory difficulties. Moreover, we wanted to examine how this relationship is influenced by known neurodevelopmental conditions to further characterize whether specific subgroups of children with atopic dermatitis are more susceptible to cognitive impairments.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response:  What we found in this study is that across the entire population, atopic dermatitis is associated with greater odds of learning or memory difficulties. However, when we further examined this relationship in light of known neurodevelopmental conditions, we found that the increased odds of cognitive symptoms from atopic dermatitis was primarily limited to the population of children with ADHD or learning disability.

In contrast, atopic dermatitis was not associated with learning or memory difficulties among children without an existing neurodevelopmental condition. Finally, we also observed an interaction between atopic dermatitis and ADHD or learning disability for memory impairment which suggests that they may have additive effects on cognitive dysfunction. In other words, among only children with ADHD or learning disability, just having atopic dermatitis alone was associated with 2-3 fold higher odds of memory difficulties than not having atopic dermatitis

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: I think the main takeaways here are that the association between atopic dermatitis and cognitive impairment in the general pediatric population is primarily limited to children with known neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD or learning disability. While it’s still important for clinicians to inquire about the impact of a child’s atopic dermatitis on their daily functions including school activities, our results suggest that children without neurodevelopmental concerns such as ADHD or learning disability are not at especially high risk for cognitive impairment and that screening for cognitive impairment should be primarily focused among children with neurodevelopmental diagnoses or concerns.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a results of this study?

Response: The national health data we used in this study represents a general population which is likely enriched for children with milder Atopic Dermatitis – Eczema: Greater Awareness in  Black and Hispanic Childrenatopic dermatitis. Since such data does not include any details about the child’s atopic dermatitis such as its severity or age of onset, further work is needed to understand how cognitive impairment risk may vary with respect to such factors. Additionally, we are interested in understanding how other risk factors (e.g., sleep disturbances or comorbid depressive or anxiety symptoms) might mediate the relationship between atopic dermatitis and cognitive impairment, particularly among children with known neurodevelopmental disorders.

Disclosures: This study was funded by a grant from the NIH. Unrelated to this work, I have also received grants from Pfizer (paid to my institution) and served as a consultant to Sun Pharmaceutical and Janssen, receiving honoraria.


Ma EZ, Chang HR, Radtke S, Wan J. Symptoms of Cognitive Impairment Among Children With Atopic Dermatitis. JAMA Dermatol. Published online March 06, 2024. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2024.0015


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Last Updated on March 8, 2024 by Marie Benz MD FAAD