Atopic dermatitis (AD) can cause serious psychological struggles for teenagers, but for young people of color, the condition can be much more detrimental, according to a new research from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Department of Dermatology.

AD is considered an epidermal barrier defect. An abnormal FLG gene, which encodes the epidermal barrier protein and simultaneously regulates the skin’s pH, is believed to be a genetic risk factor for having AD. Even though people of color are more likely to develop AD, they’re also six times less likely to have FLG mutations; therefore, researchers remain puzzled about how AD manifests in African Americans.

In their study published in Cutis, the researchers note that physicians can’t always effectively diagnose AD in patients of color. They explain that might be because physicians often fail to detect erythema, “a defining characteristic of AD” in darker skin.

Failing to successfully diagnose and treat teenagers with AD can have serious psychological consequences. The researchers found that teenagers with AD reported complained of having fewer friends, participating in fewer sports, and are overall less socially involved. For African American patients, the researchers found they had higher rates of school absences than their white counterparts. They point to one study of 8,015 children with AD between the ages of two and 17, and found that African American children were 1.5 times more likely to be absent for six days across a six-month school period than white children.



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