Eczema Research

The Northwestern Medicine Multidisciplinary Eczema Center (NMEC) pursues a broad range of investigations related to eczema (atopic dermatitis). The goal of these studies is to gain an understanding of the course and natural history of eczema, risk factors for eczema in the Chicagoland area and throughout the United States, and the medical and psychological problems that commonly occur in eczema.

Ultimately, this research is aimed at developing novel treatment approaches to improve patient outcomes and quality of life. Some of the research we do at NMEC includes:

Risk factors for eczema

Many of our studies are examining the risk factors that cause eczema in children and adults. Using innovative epidemiological tools, we are gaining insight into the predisposing factors and triggers of eczema in Chicago and throughout the United States. We are translating this research into new strategies for the screening and management of eczema patients.

Eczema sleep studies

Several of our studies aim to identify and classify the sleep disturbances associated with eczema. Sleep disturbances related to eczema can have a negative impact on quality of life. We aim to develop novel approaches to improve sleep in eczema patients.

Skin allergies in eczema

Some of our studies are aimed at identifying eczema patients that are at risk for also developing contact dermatitis or skin allergies. Eczema patients who develop skin allergies may have a more severe clinical course and not respond to conventional treatment. We are using a combination of research techniques to tackle this clinical challenge in eczema.

Atopic Dermatitis Research Network

The purpose of this study is to determine why some individuals with atopic dermatitis are at increased risk for skin infections. Additional goals of this study are to identify factors related to atopic dermatitis disease severity as well as to create a list of people who might be interested in future studies.

Natural history of eczema

Some of our studies are looking at the natural history of eczema. Using multiple approaches, we are beginning to understand what causes eczema to typically have a waxing and waning or “up and down” course. We are using these new insights to improve education for eczema patients and the doctors that treat them.

Defining the skin and blood biomarkers of pediatric atopic dermatitis

This study seeks "biomarkers", which are the differences in the skin and blood from individuals with eczema vs. normal skin, and which would be expected to respond with good treatment. Biomarkers are important in discovering a new way to treat a disorder more specifically. We are leading the first investigation of these biomarkers in infants and children with eczema.

This study comprehensively examines the skin and determines the impact of the eczema on both the child and family. Using non-invasive testing we are able to look at the dryness of skin and structural changes. Using a small blood sample we are able to check changes of immune activation in the blood (including food sensitization). We are also able to take small skin samples of skin with active eczema and without active eczema to seek changes in the skin itself and compare it with blood sample changes.

Our goal is not only to determine new information about the blood and skin changes in each individual patient we study, but ultimately to understand pediatric eczema in general and develop new, personalized therapy.

Related Resources

Medical Outcomes Research in Eczema (MORE): MORE is a study of patient-centered outcomes in adults and children with eczema. The study is being conducted by researchers in the Northwestern University Department of Dermatology. We want to hear what patients have to say about their eczema and what bothers them the most from having eczema. To participate in the survey you must be at least 18 years of age and have chronic eczema, or be the parent of a minor child with chronic eczema. Take the survey.