Impressive progress has been made in recent years in the management and treatment of atopic dermatitis (AD) and its comorbidities; however, there is a major need for state-of-the-art, evidence-based, multidisciplinary education for AD management. To address this need, the first Revolutionizing Atopic Dermatitis (RAD) Conference was held in April 2019 in Chicago, Illinois, featuring cutting-edge research presented by globally recognized experts in dermatology, allergy and immunology, sleep medicine, ophthalmology, and nursing care. The following is a recap of the latest topics in AD research presented at the conference.
Diagnosis and Assessment of AD: Jonathan I. Silverberg, MD, PhD, MPH
Although diagnosis of AD typically is straightforward in children, it can be challenging in adults, even for expert clinicians. These challenges stem from the different lesional distribution and morphology of AD in adults vs children.1,2 Additionally, the conditions included in the differential diagnosis of AD (eg, allergic contact dermatitis, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, psoriasis) are far more common in adults than in children. Formal diagnostic criteria can be useful to improve the diagnosis of AD in clinical practice.3 It is important to note that flexural lesions and early disease onset are diagnostic criteria in AD; nevertheless, neither are essential nor sufficient on their own to make the diagnosis.
Patch Testing: Jacob P. Thyssen, MD, PhD, DmSci, and Noreen Heer Nicol, PhD, RN, FNP, NEA-BC
Patch testing can be used in AD patients to rule out contact dermatitis as an alternative or comorbid diagnosis.4-6 Because contact dermatitis can mimic AD, patch testing is recommended for all patients with adolescent and adult-onset AD.5 Additionally, refractory cases of AD across all ages, especially prior to initiation of systemic therapy, warrant patch testing. The unique challenges of patch testing in AD patients were reviewed.
Atopic dermatitis can be a considerable disease burden on both patients and society in general. At the 2019 RAD Conference, a panel of patients bravely shared their AD journeys. Their eye-opening stories highlighted opportunities for improving real-world assessment and management of AD. Some key takeaways included the importance of adequately assessing the symptom burden of AD and not merely relying on visual inspection of the skin. The need for long-term treatment approaches beyond quick fixes with steroids also was discussed.
Pathogenesis of AD: Mark Boguniewicz, MD
There have been many advances in our understanding of the complex pathogenesis of AD,7-11 which is characterized by an altered skin barrier and immune dysregulation. Filaggrin deficiency in the skin has structural and biophysical consequences. A subset of patients with AD has filaggrin loss-of-function genetic polymorphisms inherited in an autosomal-semidominant pattern; however, many other genetic polymorphisms have been identified that affect different components of the skin architecture and immune system. Many cytokine pathways have been found to be upregulated in AD lesions, including IL-13, IL-4, IL-31, and IL-5 in acute and chronic lesions, and IFN-γ and other helper T cell (TH1) cytokines in chronic lesions. IL-4 and IL-13 (TH2 cytokines) have been shown to decrease epidermal expression of filaggrin and lead to lipid abnormalities in the skin of patients with AD. Even normal-appearing, nonlesional skin has substantial immune activation and barrier abnormalities in patients with moderate to severe AD. Activation of different immune pathways may contribute to the heterogeneous clinical presentation of AD. There also is an increasingly recognized role of superantigen-producing Staphylococcus aureus and decreased microbial diversity in AD.