Measuring atopic eczema severity visually: which variables are most important to patients?

Arch Dermatol. 2005 Sep;141(9):1146-51; discussion 1151. doi: 10.1001/archderm.141.9.1146.


Background: There is wide variation in the objective visual variables used to measure atopic eczema severity in clinical trials, making comparison and interpretation of results difficult.

Objective: To provide a rationale for simplifying and standardizing objective atopic eczema scoring by investigating which visual variables provide the best measure of disease severity from the patient's perspective.

Setting: The dermatology outpatient department at the Queen's Medical Centre, University Hospital in Nottingham, and 5 local general practices.

Patients: One hundred eighty individuals with atopic eczema.

Interventions: Clinical examination with scoring of 7 clinical signs and disease extent, followed by regression analyses of visual variable scores against a patient-rated measure of current disease severity.

Results: Objective measurements account for only a quarter of the variation in patient-rated disease severity. Three clinical signs were independent predictors of patient-rated disease severity: excoriations, erythema, and edema/papulation. Disease extent measurements do not reflect patient-rated disease severity in a linear manner, with mean severity scores increasing little above 30% body surface area involvement.

Conclusions: From the patient's perspective, the measurement of 3 clinical signs-excoriations, erythema, and edema/papulation-provides as much information about current atopic eczema severity as more complex scoring systems that measure multiple clinical signs and disease extent. The simplicity of the Three Item Severity score, a previously published atopic eczema score based on measurement of these 3 clinical signs, makes it a suitable tool for research studies or clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / diagnosis*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life
  • Severity of Illness Index