Study Finds Eczema For African Americans More Difficult To Treat, The Author Behind It Explains Why

September 28, 2018  |  

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Everyone knows someone with eczema, the statistics prove it. According to the National Eczema Association, 18 million adults have the atopic dermatitis form of the condition. As for how it specifically affects us as Black women and men, the prevalence of childhood eczema is greatest for African-American kids at 20 percent. Black people, demographic wise, are a large part of the population who has the condition (19 percent), and eczema is more common in women than men. But to make matters worse, a new study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology found that Black people face the greatest struggle of all to find the effective therapies needed to deal with the condition.

“Research shows about 19 percent of African Americans and 16 percent of European Americans are diagnosed with AD,” says Emma Guttman-Yassky, MD, PhD, the lead author of the paper in a press release. “Our study found there are significant differences in the skin of people with AD than in those without the condition. Furthermore, we found African Americans with AD have more inflammation than European Americans with the condition.”

So what is it about our skin that makes it harder for us to find the relief we need? According to Guttman-Yassky, it, perhaps, has a lot to do with our Type 2 or Th2 cells/lymphocytes.

“African Americans with atopic dermatitis (AD) often have increased disease severity and more treatment-resistant diseases as well as a much higher prevalence of AD,” she said over email. “Their lesions are also often thicker than those of European-American patients. These patients also have increased allergic tendencies.”

Molecular profiling is being done to help develop better treatments for all people with atopic dermatitis. Unfortunately, only European Americans with the condition have been a part of the development of such profiling techniques. And that’s a shame, because Guttman-Yassky’s study found “that the immune profile was more unbalanced in African Americans with AD compared to European Americans.”

Eczema is a very frustrating condition. And the science behind why certain people end up with it is complicated.

“It is a complex disease,” she says, “and genetic predisposition plays a role in this disease, as well as other factors.”

And while the best option is usually a personal plan created by an allergist that can target and find the right Th2 treatment strategies, she says getting a handle on eczema early, especially for those with young children with the condition, can make all of the difference to curb future skin struggles.

“Treating the eczema sufficiently at early stages can perhaps prevent long-term effects, as some are irreversible such as the skin pigmentation and discoloration seen in these patients,” she said.

But for those who’ve had the condition for a long time, there is still hope. In a statement found in the press release for the study, allergist Donald Leung, MD, PhD, the executive editor of the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, said Guttman-Yassky’s study will not only provide Black patients with better treatment options, but it will also help scientists see the need for diversifying subjects in studies concerning eczema.

“This may prove to be a valuable enhancement for treatment options for African Americans with AD,” he said. “It will also reinforce the importance of racial diversity in clinical research studies for effective treatment for AD.”

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