The latest research and treatments relating to the skin disorder atopic dermatitis was explained at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar’s (WCM-Q) Grand Rounds.
Dr. Martin Steinhoff, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Dermatology and Venereology at Hamad Medical Corporation, discussed the biological pathways involved in atopic dermatitis, one of the most common inflammatory skin diseases, which is characterized by red, swollen and cracked skin that can become intensely itchy. Patients also have abnormal dry skin, which leads to itching and scratching.
Dr. Steinhoff, who is also Clinical Professor at Qatar University and Professorial Chair at University College Dublin, said that chronic itch should not be considered a trivial symptom because of the severe detrimental impact it has on quality of life. He said: “Chronic itching is comparable to chronic pain in that it can be a source of near constant torment for the patient. This can lead to depression, social withdrawal and even suicidal feelings. We also know that patients who are successfully treated and have less itching experience a dramatic improvement in their quality of life.”
Atopic dermatitis, also known as atopic eczema, frequently occurs in people who suffer from allergies –“atopic” indicates a predisposition to develop allergic hypersensitivity against certain allergens like house dust, mites, animals or food, for example. Dr. Steinhoff also said that researchers are attempting to improve their understanding of atopic dermatitis by investigating the interaction between the nervous system, which transmits the itching sensation from the skin to the brain, and the immune system. This interaction appears to be important in producing inflammation and itch, he said.
Dr. Steinhoff then discussed therapies for eczema and pruritus (itching) which include topical corticosteroids, daily use of emollients, avoidance of known allergic triggers, self-care techniques aimed at reducing scratching and products to relieve itching. He also spoke about more recently developed therapies, such as biologic drugs, which can inhibit immune response and therefore limit inflammation. This class of drugs, which are known as “biologics”, includes Anti-IL4/13 and Anti-IL-31.
The activity was accredited locally by the Qatar Council for Healthcare Practitioners-Accreditation Department (QCHP-AD) and internationally by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME).
Dr. Stephen Atkin, Professor of Medicine at WCM-Q, said: “Dr. Steinhoff is an internationally renowned academic clinician and an acknowledged expert in the translational research and treatment of several skin conditions, including atopic dermatitis. His appearance at WCM-Q Grand Rounds has been truly enlightening for the healthcare community in Qatar and a great privilege for us.”