Qualitative vs. quantitative atopic dermatitis criteria: in historical and present perspectives

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  • R M Andersen
  • J P Thyssen
  • H I Maibach

This review summarizes historical aspects, clinical expression and pathophysiology leading to coining of the terms atopy and atopic dermatitis, current diagnostic criteria and further explore the possibility of developing quantitative diagnostic criteria of atopic dermatitis (AD) based on the importance of atopic features - subjective, objective, and those derived from laboratory tests - the new partly promising AD biomarkers. 'Atopy', introduced in 1923, denoted 'the sense of a strange disease without a precise place in the body'. A decade later, Sulzberger and Hill, first defined 'atopic dermatitis'. The pioneering well-recognized criteria, 'Hanifin & Rajka' (Acta Derm Venereol, 92, 1980, 44), were developed empirically on 'clinical experience' and expert consensus. As opposed to the widely used, rather anamnestic 'UK Criteria' (1994), they have few formal validation studies, but appear to well embrace various atopic phenotypes. Pruritus, xerosis, typical morphology/distribution of dermatitis and tendency to a relapsing/chronic course are common basic features in AD criteria, whereas skin sensitivity, heredity and various ill-defined atopic stigmata also seem to comprise the atopic phenomenon. Specific pheno- and endotypes are now emerging potentially enabling us to better classify patients with AD, but the influence of these on the diagnosis of AD is so far unclear. Few diagnostic models use quantitative scoring systems to establish AD cases from normal population, which, however, may be useful to better study and manage this disease. Long-term prospective observational studies, from which few are available at this point, along with interventional studies, are a perquisite and will provide the best option to improve our understanding of its complex characteristics and etiology.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)604-18
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

    Research areas

  • Dermatitis, Atopic, Female, History, 20th Century, Humans, Male, Historical Article, Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't, Review

ID: 177055886