Itching, burning skin. A frustrating inability to even concentrate on things that you greatly enjoy. These two scenarios do not seem to be related, but it appears that they are. The skin inflammation known as eczema and the behavior disorder called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may affect one another. Research indicates that children who have eczema may be more likely to develop ADHD. This opens new doors to treatment for both.
Eczema is a skin condition that causes itchy, red, dry skin patches on the body. Also called Atopic Dermatitis, eczema is an extremely exasperating condition caused by skin lipid deficiencies, an elevated skin pH, inflammation, and overgrowth of Staph. aureus on the skin. Eczema may also be a result in part, of a reaction to an environmental, food, or contact allergy. In fact, according to Cheryl Lee Eberting, M.D., board certified dermatologist, past clinical research fellow of the National Institutes of Health, and an expert in atopic dermatitis, “when children with atopic dermatitis were patch tested, studies show that up to 90% of them are allergic to at least one chemical with which they are coming in contact on a daily basis.” For most people who suffer with allergies, removing the allergen helps to manage the condition. But, for others, it is unclear what causes the eczema. This pressures researchers to look for more informative causal or correlative links.
The ADHD Connection
In the past several years, medical experts have begun to associate persistent eczema with the development of ADHD. Eczema is a common problem, present in about 20 percent of children over age six in Western nations. Recent research indicates that the link between eczema and ADHD is more than just perceived.
CNN reported the results of one German study. Researchers looked at the incidence of eczema and attention problems in 1,436 children ages 6-17. The relationship between the two conditions was more than just minimal. Children who suffered from eczema were 54 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than those who did not have eczema. Also, the study participants who sought more-frequent visits with doctors for treatment of their eczema, demonstrated more attention problems.
At this point, experts are unsure how this information may lead to more effective therapy for either condition. As the researchers noted, this correlation does not indicate whether eczema causes behavioral issues, or if ADHD has eczema as a physical component. They are sure that it is not a guaranteed link, as some children with ADHD do not have eczema, and vice versa. They call for more research to resolve the current “chicken and egg” problem they face.
As doctors develop a better understanding of the influential role that eczema and ADHD play on each other, possible ways to address both conditions arise. NPR interviewed Dutch researcher Dr. Lidy Pelsser on the effect diet has on both eczema and ADHD. Pelsser argues that, in her work at the Netherlands ADHD Research Centre, she has learned that ADHD is often caused by sensitivity to a particular food. Nearly two-thirds of the ADHD cases she studied were triggered by a food intolerance or allergy. Just as an allergy specialist might prescribe a special diet for an eczema sufferer, she recommends a strict diet for ADHD children. The results, in time, may severely reduce the symptoms of both afflictions.
Dr. Eberting states, “It is no surprise that a child who has eczema would have ADHD; the itching is unbearable and would make any of us want to jump up out of our seats and not pay attention. These children have completely disrupted sleep, disrupted play time, disrupted family time, as well as disrupted school time. If you watch a small child who has severe eczema, they are in constant motion scratching themselves until they bleed; they will even scratch when they are in the deepest of sleep. This is exactly why I have spent my life developing solutions for these little people.”
Eczema and ADHD affect the quality of life for millions of children worldwide. New research on the correlation between the two conditions identifies possible revolutionary treatments to minimize the effects of both.
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