Evaluating the Longitudinal Course of Atopic Dermatitis: Implications for Clinical Practice

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



American journal of clinical dermatology




Atopic dermatitis (AD) is characterized by a heterogenous longitudinal course with varying severity, flares, and persistence. However, AD course is not routinely assessed in clinical practice or controlled trials. Our objective was to review the longitudinal course of AD in children and adults and discuss implications for routine practice and clinical trials. We conducted a focused review of the published literature, including retrospective, prospective, and interventional studies, clinical trials, and consensus guidelines. Estimates of AD persistence varied widely across studies but suggested that AD can indeed persist through childhood and into adulthood. Predictors of persistence are broad and include both disease-intrinsic and disease-extrinsic (i.e., environmental) factors. In real-world practice, most individuals with AD experience fluctuations in the signs and symptoms over time and do not experience persistent clearance of skin lesions. Clinical trials use mainly static measurements that do not take into account fluctuations in course, which may confound treatment effects. The heterogenous temporal pattern of AD can be incorporated into routine practice to better set expectations and offer a realistic prognosis. AD course should be routinely incorporated into clinical decision making. Future studies are needed to develop a standardized approach to AD assessment and treatment that includes longitudinal course.