Discover the connection between eczema, asthma, and other diseases in this informative guest post by Sanofi Genzyme and Regeneron.
While people living with atopic dermatitis (also called eczema) often have other chronic diseases, like asthma or nasal polyps, many are unaware that there could be a connection between them (1). In fact, up to 50% of those living with atopic dermatitis also have asthma, and 35% of people with severe asthma also have atopic dermatitis (2,3,4).
Today, research has evolved to show how a specific kind of overactive immune response, known as type 2 inflammation, could be the underlying connection driving these seemingly unrelated diseases.
Sanofi Genzyme and Regeneron recently hosted a virtual educational event called The Type 2 Inflammation Connection, exploring the science behind type 2 inflammation and its impact on people across the globe to help raise awareness, spark dialogue, and empower others to think differently about some chronic diseases.
The virtual event kicked off with a presentation from Dr. Alexander Zink – a dermatologist and public health specialist at Technical University of Munich – breaking down the science of type 2 inflammation and how it can help explain some of the unifying features of diseases like atopic dermatitis and asthma. For example, both have chronic symptoms that can worsen unpredictably, disturbing sleep and making people with these diseases miss work and social activities. (5,6) Dr. Zink also discussed potential considerations for clinical practice, emphasizing a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to diseases that can be driven by type 2 inflammation.
“Through well-established observations, such as the fact that these diseases often coexist in the same person, or run in families, healthcare providers have suspected there is some connection between these diseases for many years,” Zink said in his presentation. “However, the specific nature of that connection has become clearer as the science behind type 2 inflammation emerges.”
While there is not a single test that can diagnose type 2 inflammation, biopsies and biomarker tests for inflammatory markers (e.g. eosinophils or allergic markers like IgE in the blood, etc.) can provide valuable insights into whether type 2 inflammation underlies a disease.
Dr. Zink encouraged patients who are being treated for one type 2 inflammatory disease to familiarize themselves with their symptoms, keep records and be open and honest with their healthcare provider, as these symptoms can relate to other coexisting inflammatory conditions. That’s why an integrated approach to disease management and treatment is so important, according to Zink.
After Dr. Zink’s presentation, the discussion opened to a panel of different perspectives to further elaborate on the burden on those living with type 2 inflammatory diseases. The panel featured Dr. Zink, along with Jennifer Austin, the Executive Director of the International Alliance of Dermatology Patient Organizations (GlobalSkin) and Karin Hafner, who lives with atopic dermatitis as well as mild asthma.
Since being diagnosed with severe atopic dermatitis as an infant, Hafner shared that she tried to hide her skin for most of her life. “I believed many people would find me disgusting,” said Hafner, who lives in Salzburg, Austria. Hafner’s skin condition caused her to shy away from many things, including having an open conversation with her doctor.
This is a common problem among patients with atopic dermatitis and other visible skin diseases, according to Austin, who is based in Ottawa, Canada.
“A lot of patients go into appointments not knowing what questions they want, or even should know, to ask,” said Austin. She urged others to get in touch with their local patient group to educate themselves on the resources available to them. “Some patient organizations provide step-by-step guides as to what to expect and discuss with the doctor,” Austin said.
Hafner also thinks it’s important for patients like her to discuss their disease with their loved ones and get the support they need to help them understand their skin does not define them. Motivated by her own experience, she recently founded an online community called hautinfo.at, focused on skin diseases. “Now, I no longer feel helpless,” Hafner said.
- Gandhi, Namita A., et al. Targeting key proximal drivers of type 2 inflammation in disease. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. 2016;15(1):35-50.
- J.I. Silverberg, J.M. Gelfand, and D.J. Margolis, “Association of atopic dermatitis with allergic, autoimmune, and cardiovascular comorbidities in US adults,” Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol, vol. 121, no. 5, pp. 604-612, 2018
- D. E. Shaw, A. R. Sousa and S. J. Fowler, “Clinical and inflammatory characteristics of the European U-BIOPRED adult severe asthma cohort,” European Respiratory Journal, vol. 46, no. 5, pp. 1308-1321, 2015
- E. Heffler, F. Blasi and M. Latorre, “The Severe Asthma Network in Italy: Findings and Perspectives.,” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, vol. 7, no. 5, pp. 1462-1468, 2018.
- GINA 2020 Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA). Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention. 2020. Available at: https://ginasthma.org/gina-reports/. Last accessed September 2020
- Zuberbier T, et al. Patient Perspectives on the Management of Atopic Dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006;118:226-232.