Atopic dermatitis increases risk of ADHD, comorbidities add to it




Atopic dermatitis (AD) is associated with an increased risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults, and a host of factors and comorbid conditions increase this risk, according to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Mark A. Strom and his associates at Northwestern University in Chicago examined data from 19 U.S. population-based surveys on 354,416 children ages 2-17 years and 34,613 adults over the age of 18 to determine if childhood and adult AD and the severity of AD were associated with ADHD. Additionally, the investigators sought to identify factors contributing to this association (Br J Dermatol. 2016 Apr 23. doi: 10.1111/bjd.14697).


The prevalence of ADHD was 9.4% in children with AD and 7.1% in children without AD. For children, the study results obtained from multivariate models adjusting for age, sex, sociodemographic variables, allergic disease, and health care utilization confirmed the previously established increase in risk for ADHD in those with AD for an adjusted odds ratio of 1.14. Severe AD and sleep disturbance were found to independently and synergistically contribute to the increased risk of ADHD. Also, the presence of AD in the absence of other allergic disease was associated with an increased risk for ADHD. Obesity, headaches, and anemia were found to further increase the risk for ADHD in those with AD.

Results from the adjusted multivariate models also established an increased risk for ADHD among adults with AD, for an adjusted odds ratio of 1.61. The presence of asthma, headaches, and insomnia increased this risk. The analysis additionally revealed that a body mass index indicative of underweight status in adults with AD was protective against the risk for developing ADHD.

Mr. Strom and his associates found a significant decrease in their initial odds ratios when they added outpatient health care visitation to their multivariate models, which resulted in an overall pooled odds ratio for the relationship between AD and ADHD just above statistical significance. They speculated that children with AD or ADHD would be more likely to visit health care providers, which could increase the likelihood for diagnosis of comorbid conditions.

Funding was provided by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Dermatology Foundation. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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