Inflammatory bowel disease linked to atopic dermatitis

Findings from researchers from Penn Medicine link an increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease with the presence of atopic dermatitis, which can lead to new treatments for both.

Adults with atopic dermatitis (AD) have a 34% increased risk of developing new-onset inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) compared with individuals who do not have the skin condition, and children have a 44% increased risk, according to a new study from the Perelman School of Medicine. Additionally, as the severity of AD increased, the risk of developing IBD rose. These findings clear up ambiguity from previous research, especially among populations of children and between the different types of inflammatory bowel disease: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Insight offered from this study, published in JAMA Dermatology, could lead to new treatments for both IBD and AD.

Person scratching at dermatitis on their arms.
Image: iStock/Zinkevych

IBD encompasses the diseases ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which are disorders involving chronic digestive tract inflammation. While IBD is located in the gut and AD affects the skin, both diseases are driven by the immune system and are categorized by severe inflammation.

“It is imperative for clinicians to understand atopic dermatitis and the trajectory of our patients with it in order to provide the best standard of care,” says senior author Joel M Gelfand, the James J. Leyden, M.D. Endowed Professor in Clinical Investigation in the Department of Dermatology at Penn. “There are new and better treatments for AD today, and there will likely continue to be more. But providers have to understand how those treatments could impact other autoimmune diseases. For patients with AD and another autoimmune disease, some currently available medications can exacerbate symptoms of their other disease or can help treat two immune diseases at the same time.”

Read more at Penn Medicine News.