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Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, affects an estimated 15% to 20% of children worldwide. Research from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has found that children with eczema are more likely to experience learning and memory difficulties compared to those without the skin condition. Children with eczema are also at a two to three-fold greater risk of memory issues if they also have a neurodevelopmental disorder such as ADHD or learning disabilities. This chronic disorder causes the skin to become dry, itchy, red, and irritated, and is associated with other conditions such as asthma, skin infections, and food allergies. Additionally, eczema in children is linked to a higher incidence of neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and learning disabilities.

In a study published in JAMA Dermatology, researchers examined data from over 69 million children aged 17 or younger collected from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey in 2021. They found that children with eczema were more likely to have difficulties with learning and memory compared to children without the condition. Children with eczema and neurodevelopmental disorders had a two to three-fold greater chance of experiencing memory issues. However, there was no significant association between eczema and learning or memory difficulties among children without known neurodevelopmental conditions. This study adds to the growing literature on the connection between atopic dermatitis and cognitive impairments in children.

Dr. Joy Wan, lead author of the study, emphasized the importance of addressing cognitive impairments early in life to prevent adverse outcomes in the future. The researchers found that children with eczema are more susceptible to cognitive impairments, particularly if they also have neurodevelopmental disorders. They observed an interaction between eczema and these disorders, suggesting additive effects on cognitive dysfunction. Screening for cognitive impairment should be focused on children with neurodevelopmental diagnoses or concerns, as they are at higher risk for cognitive issues.

Dr. Peter Lio, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology and pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, noted that the study confirms previous research on the connection between eczema and cognitive issues in children. He highlighted the need to further investigate the reasons behind this correlation, such as the impact of itchiness and sleep disturbances caused by the condition. Dr. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, emphasized the importance of understanding the causes of cognitive impairment in children to develop better treatments and interventions. This study contributes to the field of psychodermatology by demonstrating the strong connection between the mind and the skin.

Overall, the study provides valuable insights into the relationship between atopic dermatitis and cognitive impairments in children. Further research is needed to understand how factors such as eczema severity and age of onset may affect cognitive impairment risk. Identifying and addressing cognitive issues early on can lead to better outcomes for children with eczema, especially those with neurodevelopmental disorders. By exploring the underlying factors driving the correlation between eczema and cognitive impairments, researchers hope to develop targeted treatment plans to improve the lives of affected children.

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