Is atopic dermatitis a risk factor for intervertebral disc degeneration? A preliminary clinical and MRI study

J Neurol Sci. 2003 Jan 15;206(1):39-42. doi: 10.1016/s0022-510x(02)00315-5.


Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a common allergic disease that has recently been reported to be complicated with acute myelitis. To clinically evaluate the occurrence of myelitis in AD, 65 consecutive AD patients were neurologically examined. Of these, 37 underwent cervical MRI scans. Unexpectedly, the neurologic and MRI findings did not suggest myelitis, but rather, in most cases, cervical spondylosis. Therefore, we assessed the relationship between AD and cervical spondylosis. In addition, cervical MRI findings in 26 patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and in 12 normal controls were also evaluated. The neurologic examinations in the AD patients frequently showed hyperreflexia in the legs, and sensory and motor disturbances were often present in the limbs. Cervical MRI findings suggestive of spondylosis, such as intervertebral disc degeneration and bulging/protrusion, were found more frequently in AD patients than in MS patients, with statistical significance. Posterior spondylolisthesis was observed with higher frequency in AD and MS patients than in normal controls. We concluded that AD might be a risk factor for intervertebral disc degeneration. As far as we know, this is the first paper describing the potential association between disc degeneration and AD.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cervical Vertebrae / pathology
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / complications*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc / pathology
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / epidemiology*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Risk Factors