Atopic Dermatitis or Eczema: What Is the Preferred Term?

The lack of standardized terms for atopic dermatitis (AD) can create unnecessary confusion for patients, health care providers, and researchers. It also negatively impacts accurate information of research in the scientific literature, according to Kantor and colleagues. The lack of standardized terms for AD led researchers to conduct a systematic review of the most commonly used terms for AD. The findings were published recently in Allergy.

Using Medline, Embase, and LILACS, Kantor and colleagues searched for the terms AD, atopic eczema, and other eczematous disorders from 1945 to 2016. In Medline, the researchers identified 33,060 publications, of which 21,299 (64.4%) used the term AD, 15,510 (46.9%) used the term eczema, and 2471 (7.5%) used the term atopic eczema. The majority of these publications used the term AD or eczema (82.0% and 70.8%, respectively) without additional nomenclature; only about 1% used the term atopic eczema alone. AD was also the most commonly used term in studies across almost all publication types, languages, and journals. The researchers found that AD was rarely used until the late 1970s, after which it became the most commonly used of the 3 terms, and its usage continuously increased in popularity until 2015. The term atopic eczema decreased between 2008 and 2015.

“Given that eczema is a nonspecific term that describes the morphological appearance of several forms of dermatitis, we strongly suggest the use of a more specific term, atopic dermatitis, in publications, health care clinician training, and patient education,” concluded the researchers.

Kantor R, Thyssen JP, Paller AS, Silverberg JI. Atopic dermatitis, atopic eczema or eczema? A systematic review, meta-analysis and recommendation for uniform use of “atopic dermatitis.” Allergy. 2016;71(10):1480-1485