Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
Filter by Categories
15th National Conference of the IAOMFP, Chennai, 2006
Abstracts from current literature
Acne in India: Guidelines for management - IAA Consensus Document
Art & Psychiatry
Association Activities
Association Notes
Award Article
Book Review
Brief Report
Case Analysis
Case Letter
Case Letters
Case Notes
Case Report
Case Reports
Clinical and Laboratory Investigations
Clinical Article
Clinical Studies
Clinical Study
Conference Oration
Conference Summary
Continuing Medical Education
Cosmetic Dermatology
Current Best Evidence
Current Issue
Current View
Derma Quest
Dermato Surgery
Dermatosurgery Specials
Dispensing Pearl
Do you know?
Drug Dialogues
Editor Speaks
Editorial Remarks
Editorial Report
Editorial Report - 2007
Editorial report for 2004-2005
Fourth All India Conference Programme
From Our Book Shelf
From the Desk of Chief Editor
Get Set for Net
Get set for the net
Guest Article
Guest Editorial
How I Manage?
IADVL Announcement
IADVL Announcements
IJDVL Awards
IJDVL Awards 2018
IJDVL Awards 2019
IJDVL Awards 2020
IJDVL International Awards 2018
Images in Clinical Practice
In Memorium
Inaugural Address
Knowledge From World Contemporaries
Leprosy Section
Letter in Response to Previous Publication
Letter to Editor
Letter to the Editor
Letter to the Editor - Case Letter
Letter to the Editor - Letter in Response to Published Article
Letter to the Editor - Observation Letter
Letter to the Editor - Study Letter
Letter to the Editor - Therapy Letter
Letter to the Editor: Articles in Response to Previously Published Articles
Letters in Response to Previous Publication
Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor - Letter in Response to Previously Published Articles
Letters to the Editor: Case Letters
Letters to the Editor: Letters in Response to Previously Published Articles
Medicolegal Window
Miscellaneous Letter
Net Case
Net case report
Net Image
Net Letter
Net Quiz
Net Study
New Preparations
News & Views
Observation Letter
Observation Letters
Original Article
Original Contributions
Pattern of Skin Diseases
Pediatric Dermatology
Pediatric Rounds
Presedential Address
Presidential Address
Presidents Remarks
Report of chief editor
Report of Hon : Treasurer IADVL
Report of Hon. General Secretary IADVL
Research Methdology
Research Methodology
Resident page
Resident's Page
Resident’s Page
Residents' Corner
Residents' Corner
Residents' Page
Review Article
Review Articles
Reviewers 2022
Revision Corner
Self Assessment Programme
Seminar: Chronic Arsenicosis in India
Seminar: HIV Infection
Short Communication
Short Communications
Short Report
Special Article
Specialty Interface
Study Letter
Study Letters
Symposium - Contact Dermatitis
Symposium - Lasers
Symposium - Pediatric Dermatoses
Symposium - Psoriasis
Symposium - Vesicobullous Disorders
Symposium Aesthetic Surgery
Symposium Dermatopathology
Symposium-Hair Disorders
Symposium-Nails Part I
Symposium-Nails-Part II
Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses
Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis
Therapeutic Guideline-IADVL
Therapeutic Guidelines
Therapeutic Guidelines - IADVL
Therapy Letter
Therapy Letters
View Point
What’s new in Dermatology
View/Download PDF

Translate this page into:

doi: 10.4103/0378-6323.107633

Is there something called adult onset atopic dermatitis in India?

Devinder Mohan Thappa, Munisamy Malathi
 Department of Dermatology and STD, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Pondicherry, India

Correspondence Address:
Devinder Mohan Thappa
Department of Dermatology and STD, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Pondicherry - 605 006
How to cite this article:
Thappa DM, Malathi M. Is there something called adult onset atopic dermatitis in India?. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2013;79:145-147
Copyright: (C)2013 Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology

Atopic dermatitis (AD), a chronic relapsing and remitting eczematous condition, was predominantly considered a disorder of infancy and childhood and reports on adult AD are mostly attributed to early-onset AD extending into adult life. There has not been much literature on adult onset AD until Bannister and Freeman [1] from Australia described a subgroup termed adult onset AD in 2000. Since then, many reports of adult onset AD have been reported from many parts of the world. [2],[3],[4] Hence, in the present scenario, adult-onset AD is not a rare but, rather an under-recognized eczematous condition with a prevalence ranging from 13% to 47%. [4]

Even before the description of the terminology "adult onset AD" by Bannister and Freeman, [1] few studies from Asian countries have reported on the prevalence of AD having a later age at onset. Studies from Singapore [5] and Malaysia [6] which are multiracial countries, the prevalence of adult onset AD was 13.6% and 13%, respectively. A higher prevalence of 24.2% has been reported recently from Japan, [2] another Asian country. Till date, there are no published studies from India on the prevalence of adult onset AD. In coastal areas of south India, the incidence of AD is low (personal observation), but we see a number of cases of nummular eczema and genital and extragenital lichen simplex chronicus a positive personal or family history of atopy in the range of 15-20%. A personal or family history of atopy was present in 25.7% of patients who presented with lichen simplex chronicus of the ano-genital region in our institute. [7] In another study [8] on the patterns of lower leg and foot eczema in south India, a family or personal history of atopy was present in 13.5% of patients who presented with discoid eczema. However, there is lack of data on the prevalence of adult onset AD (as these cases are not investigated to look for other features of AD) which presents as discoid eczema or lichen simplex chronicus.

Adult onset AD has a broad range of age at the onset with a peak at 20-40 years of age as reported by most studies with a female preponderance. [1],[2],[4] However, AD can have an onset as late as after the fifth decade, called the senile onset AD wherein a male preponderance was observed. [3],[9] These observations are in contrast to childhood AD wherein there is no gender predilection. [4],[9]

The characteristic manifestation of adult onset AD is inflammatory eczema with lichenification, affecting the flexures and extensors, hands, shoulders, neck, face and eyelids. [1],[2],[3],[4],[9] In addition to these typical features of AD like pruritus, generalized xerosis and eczematous lesions in a flexural distribution, adult onset AD can present with non-typical morphology and localization. The head and neck distribution is more common in adults with AD than in children with AD. [9] It has been reported that head and neck dermatitis in childhood AD is a poor prognostic factor indicating the persistence of AD in adulthood. [10] Nevertheless, head and neck dermatitis as a manifestation of AD more commonly occurred in adults, even in the absence of childhood eczema, indicating it to be a characteristic feature of adult onset AD. Nummular lesions are the most common non-typical morphological variant in adult onset AD and the other atypical variants include follicular, prurigo-like, or seborrheic dermatitis like lesions. [3],[4] The well-described patterns in childhood AD include papular, lichenoid, follicular, and seborrheic dermatitis like patterns. [3] The site of onset of dermatitis also seem to vary in males and females with the hands being the most common site to be involved in females and the eyelids in males. [3] In senile onset AD, clinical features resemble the adult phase, except that lichenification in the antecubital and popliteal fossae are uncommon and they typically present with eczematous erythroderma and unclassified chronic eczema. [2] The prevalence of hand dermatitis is more common in atopics, especially women, and occupational irritants and domestic work favor its development. [9]

AD can be classified into two types based on the presence or absence of elevated IgE and specific IgE sensitization into "IgE-associated," "allergic" or "extrinsic" type of AD and "non-allergic" or "atopiform dermatitis" or "intrinsic"type of AD, respectively. [11] Extrinsic AD is more common in adult onset AD (87.5-93.05%) and the prevalence of intrinsic AD tends to be higher in younger individuals (15-45%) when compared to adults (5.4-12.5%). [12],[13] This could probably be due to the delayed appearance of respiratory allergies signifying the atopic march in children, or it could be that some forms of intrinsic AD are triggered by sensitization to completely different antigens or it could be that very young children have a transient form of spontaneously resolving eczema that is not a typical AD.

The clinical patterns of disease also seem to be different between the two groups as observed in various studies. In a study by Kulthanan et al.,[12] the typical pattern of lichenified/exudative eczematous lesions on the antecubital and popliteal areas were more common among patients with extrinsic AD whereas nummular and follicular lesions were more common in patients with intrinsic AD. Also, non-flexural involvement was more common in intrinsic AD followed by flexural area and extensor area. Moreover, other features like ichthyosis, cutaneous infection, non-specific hand and foot dermatitis, Dennie-Morgan infraorbital fold, orbital darkening, facial pallor, anteriorneck folds, itch when sweating, course influenced by environment or emotional factors, intolerance to wool and lipid solvent or any coarse fabric were more common in intrinsic AD. However, Fölster-Holst et al.[13] observed no clinical difference between the two groups except for the more common occurrence of Besnier pattern of prurigo in extrinsic AD. Fölster-Holst et al.[13] and Brenninkmeijer et al.[14] observed intrinsic AD to have a later age at onset and milder disease severity when compared to extrinsic AD. However, Kulthanan et al.[12] found no difference in the disease severity between the two groups and both extrinsic and intrinsic AD had an early age at onset in their study. Thus intrinsic AD is uncommon in adults unlike in children. These findings support that intrinsic eczema is an uncommon entity in adults with AD.

AD is predominantly a clinical diagnosis based on established diagnostic criteria as no gold standard diagnostic tests for AD exist. Moreover, in adults, AD is a diagnosis of exclusion after ruling out conditions like allergic contact dermatitis, seborrhoeic dermatitis, psoriasis, scabies, and cutaneous lymphoma. [15] Several diagnostic criteria have been proposed, but at present the two most reliable are the Hanifin and Rajka criteria revised by the American Academy of Dermatology (2003) and the UK Working Party′s diagnostic criteria revised by Williams (2005). [15] These diagnostic criteria have been validated in children but little is known about the validity of these in adult onset AD.

Many features described in these criteria like pruritus, xerosis, facial erythema, Hertoghe′s sign, facial pallor, dirty neck, ichthyosis, Dennie-Morgan fold, non-specific hand and foot dermatitis, orbital darkening, course influenced by environment or emotional factors, intolerance to wool and lipid solvent have been reported to occur in adult onset AD. [2],[12] However, some of the features of these criteria do not have much relevance in adults and diagnosing adult onset AD strictly based on these criteria would result in missing many cases of AD in adults. [2]

Early age at the onset is one of the criteria, which is of no relevance in a case of adult onset AD. One of the major criteria is typical morphology and age-specific patterns (facial, neck, extensor involvement in infants and children; current or prior flexural lesions in any age group; sparing of groin and axillary regions). Although typical flexural lichenifications are common in adults, observations from various studies [1],[2],[3],[4],[9] suggest that a considerable number of patients present with atypical morphology and distribution in adult onset AD. For example, head and neck involvement is more common in adults in comparison to infants and flexural lesions are uncommon in elderly.

Hypersensitivity responses in adults grossly differ from that seen in children. Classical food allergy has less clinical importance in adults with AD, in contrast to children. Non-IgE-mediated and pseudoallergic reactions are more common in adults. Malassezia yeast colonization is higher in adults, as compared to children with AD and the prevalence of serum IgE antibodies to the species Malassezia furfur is also much greater in adult patients. [9]

Based on these observations and with the increasing prevalence of adult onset AD, it is high time that the existing diagnostic criteria for AD need to be modified and validated, else many cases of AD would be missed in adults resulting in disposing them off as contact dermatitis with no identified allergens or as unclassified endogenous dermatitis. Modified diagnostic criteria based on the knowledge of the prevalence of common and uncommon manifestations of AD according to different age group would enable early diagnosis and treatment of this extremely distressing condition.

Bannister MJ, Freeman S. Adult-onset atopic dermatitis. Australas J Dermatol 2000;41:225-8.
[Google Scholar]
Tanei R, Katsuoka K. Clinical analyses of atopic dermatitis in the aged. J Dermatol 2008;35:562-9.
[Google Scholar]
Ozkaya E. Adult-onset atopic dermatitis. J Am Acad Dermatol 2005;52:579-82.
[Google Scholar]
Kulthanan K, Samutrapong P, Jiamton S, Tuchinda P. Adult-onset atopic dermatitis: A cross-sectional study of natural history and clinical manifestation. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol 2007;25:207-14.
[Google Scholar]
Tay YK, Khoo BP, Goh CL. The profile of atopic dermatitis in a tertiary dermatology outpatient clinic in Singapore. Int J Dermatol 1999;38:689-92.
[Google Scholar]
Jaafar RB, Pettit JH. Atopic eczema in a multiracial country (Malaysia). Clin Exp Dermatol 1993;18:496-9.
[Google Scholar]
Rajalakshmi R, Thappa DM, Jaisankar TJ, Nath AK. Lichen simplex chronicus of anogenital region: A clinico-etiological study. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2011;77:28-36.
[Google Scholar]
Chougule A, Thappa DM. Patterns of lower leg and foot eczema in South India. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2008;74:458-61.
[Google Scholar]
Katsarou A, Armenaka M. Atopic dermatitis in older patients: Particular points. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 2011;25:12-8.
[Google Scholar]
Sandström MH, Faergemann J. Prognosis and prognostic factors in adult patients with atopic dermatitis: A long-term follow-up questionnaire study. Br J Dermatol 2004;150:103-10.
[Google Scholar]
Akdis CA, Akdis M. Immunological differences between intrinsic and extrinsic types of atopic dermatitis. Clin Exp Allergy 2003;33:1618-21.
[Google Scholar]
Kulthanan K, Boochangkool K, Tuchinda P, Chularojanamontri L. Clinical features of the extrinsic and intrinsic types of adult-onset atopic dermatitis. Asia Pac Allergy 2011;1:80-6.
[Google Scholar]
Fölster-Holst R, Pape M, Buss YL, Christophers E, Weichenthal M. Low prevalence of the intrinsic form of atopic dermatitis among adult patients. Allergy 2006;61:629-32.
[Google Scholar]
Brenninkmeijer EE, Spuls PI, Legierse CM, Lindeboom R, Smitt JH, Bos JD. Clinical differences between atopic and atopiform dermatitis. J Am Acad Dermatol 2008;58:407-14.
[Google Scholar]
Ricci G, Dondi A, Patrizi A. Useful tools for the management of atopic dermatitis. Am J Clin Dermatol 2009;10:287-300.
[Google Scholar]

Fulltext Views

PDF downloads
Show Sections