Clinical onset of atopic eczema: Results from 2 nationally representative British birth cohorts followed through midlife

Katrina Abuabara*, Morgan Ye, Charles E. McCulloch, Alice Sullivan, David J. Margolis, David P. Strachan, Lavinia Paternoster, Yik Weng Yew, Hywel C. Williams, Sinéad M. Langan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
113 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: Atopic eczema onset is described primarily in early childhood; the frequency and characteristics of adult-onset disease remain controversial.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the proportion of individuals who report atopic eczema symptoms between birth and mid adulthood, and to examine demographic, immunologic, and genetic factors associated with period of symptom onset.

METHODS: We conducted a longitudinal study using data from two nationally representative community-based birth cohorts from the United Kingdom: the British Cohort Studies 1958 and 1970. Individuals were followed from birth through age 42-50. The primary outcome was the age period of self-reported atopic eczema symptom onset based on repeated measures of self-reported atopic eczema at each survey wave.

RESULTS: The annual period prevalence of atopic eczema ranged from 5-15% in two cohorts of over 17,000 participants each followed from birth through mid-age. There was no clear trend in prevalence by age, and among adults reporting active atopic eczema during a given year, only 38% had symptom onset reported in childhood. When compared with individuals whose eczema started in childhood, those with adult-onset disease were more likely to be women, from Scotland or Northern England, of lower childhood socio-economic group, smokers in adulthood, and less likely to have a history of asthma. In a sub-analysis using data from the 1958 cohort only, genetic mutations previously associated with atopic eczema, including filaggrin null mutations, and allergen-specific IgE were more common among those with childhood-onset disease.

CONCLUSION: Rates of self-reported atopic eczema remain high after childhood, and adult-onset atopic eczema has different risk factor associations than childhood-onset eczema.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)710-719
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number3
Early online date28 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019


  • atopic dermatitis
  • atopic eczema
  • epidemiology
  • natural history

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