Atopic dermatitis (AD) or eczema is linked to signs of cognitive impairment, including memory and learning difficulties in children with neurodevelopmental comorbidities, a recent study revealed.

Eczema is a chronic dermatological condition that causes dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. Although common in young children, it can occur at any age. People who have eczema are at higher risk of developing food allergies, hay fever, and asthma.

The latest study published in Jama Dermatology suggests that in children with neurodevelopmental comorbidities such as learning disabilities, eczema raised the risk of cognitive impairment two to threefold times compared to those without eczema.

However, among children without neurodevelopmental conditions, eczema did not have an association with learning or memory difficulties.

The study evaluated a weighted sample of more than 69.7 million U.S. children, of which 13.2% had atopic dermatitis.

"Results of this cross-sectional study suggest that pediatric AD was generally associated with greater odds of reported difficulties in learning and memory. However, this association was primarily limited to children with neurodevelopmental comorbidities, such as ADHD or learning disabilities," the researchers wrote.

"These findings may improve the risk stratification of children with AD for cognitive impairments and suggest that evaluation for cognitive difficulties should be prioritized among children with AD and neurodevelopmental disorders," they added.

However, the study did not account for factors such as severity or age of onset of eczema. It also didn't include other risk factors like sleep disturbances or comorbid depressive or anxiety symptoms that might affect the relationship between atopic dermatitis and cognitive impairment. Hence, further research is needed to understand the impact of these factors, the researchers caution.

"While it's still important for clinicians to inquire about the impact of a child's atopic dermatitis on their daily functions including school activities, our results suggest that children without neurodevelopmental concerns such as ADHD or learning disability are not at especially high risk for cognitive impairment and that screening for cognitive impairment should be primarily focused among children with neurodevelopmental diagnoses or concerns," said Dr. Joy Wan, the study author from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.