Pediatric Dermatology

A Practical Overview of Pediatric Atopic Dermatitis, Part 3: Differential Diagnosis, Comorbidities, and Measurement of Disease Burden

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Financial Burden

The cost of AD can be high in the United States, with adult data demonstrating costs ranging from $371 to $489 per person.34 The last published cost data for pediatric AD was from 2003, with an average cost of $219 per year.35 Costs include time lost from work, household purchases (eg, skin care products), and co-pays for visits and medication, with an estimated average expenditure per person (SE) of $601.06 ($137.26) annually in 2012.36 The cost of ambulatory care and emergency department visits for AD in children in the United States in 1993 was estimated at $364 million.37-39 In 2002, Ellis et al40 estimated the overall cost of AD to be between $900 million and $3.8 billion in the United States (1997-1998) based on projections from claims, prescriptions, and comorbidities reported to a private insurer and Medicaid. Ellis et al41 further determined that topical tacrolimus was similar in cost to high-potency corticosteroids.

Pediatric AD often progresses to adult hand eczema and leads to further morbidity, especially in health care workers.42 Kemp43 reviewed the cost of AD in children and concluded that AD was a condition with major handicap with personal, financial, and social effects. A cost review of studies conducted in 163,700 children with AD showed that costs related to AD totaled $316.7 million per year. The author concluded that there were substantial psychosocial and financial stresses associated with pediatric AD but no clear path to potential reduction in related costs.43

Sleep Disturbances

Sleep disturbances are common in pediatric AD patients. Pruritus usually is exacerbated at bedtime due to reduced humidity and lack of distractions to prevent scratching. Sleep deprivation has a substantial impact on both the patient and his/her household. Parental frustration increases with sleep disturbance.18,44 Sleep deprivation is associated with greater severity, both because it is one of the most difficult aspects of illness and because the associated pruritus makes for greater damage done to the skin through injurious scratching.

Sleep disturbances also may interfere with growth and overnight release of growth hormones.18,44 This latter issue can result in reduced linear growth velocity. Furthermore, sleep deprivation can cause increased risk of accidents and poor school performance.18,44,45

Many children do not outgrow AD. In adults, AD-associated sleep deprivation has been shown to have an association with fatigue, regular daytime sleepiness, and regular insomnia, correlating to number of sick days, doctor visits, and poorer overall health status.45

Inadequate Disease Control

Inadequate disease control has been described by Eichenfeld46 as an important issue in AD at this time. Untreated, undertreated, and improperly treated AD are important issues affecting long-term AD care. He further cited steroid phobia as a contributor to undertreatment.46 Fleischer47 has cited the black box warning present on TCIs as a further deterrent to adequate therapeutic control in our current therapeutic paradigm. Undertreatment may result in uncontrolled disease activity, impaired QOL, infections, and sleep disturbances. The role of undertreatment as a driver of the atopic march is unknown.


Atopic dermatitis is a multisystem disorder that has wide-reaching comorbidities and may mimic a variety of skin conditions. The topic of comorbidities is new and emerging and bears further review to define risk factors, prevention strategies, and long-term monitoring requirements.


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