Classifying atopic dermatitis: a systematic review of phenotypes and associated characteristics

J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2022 Jun;36(6):807-819. doi: 10.1111/jdv.18008. Epub 2022 Feb 25.


Atopic dermatitis is a heterogeneous disease, accompanied by a wide variation in disease presentation and the potential to identify many phenotypes that may be relevant for prognosis and treatment. We aimed to systematically review previously reported phenotypes of atopic dermatitis and any characteristics associated with them. Ovid EMBASE, Ovid MEDLINE and Web of Science were searched from inception till 12 February 2021 for studies attempting to classify atopic dermatitis. Primary outcomes are atopic dermatitis phenotypes and characteristics associated with them in subsequent analyses. A secondary outcome is the methodological approach used to derive them. In total, 8511 records were found. By focussing only on certain clinical phenotypes, 186 studies were eligible for inclusion. The majority of studies were hospital-based (59%, 109/186) and cross-sectional (76%, 141/186). The number of included patients ranged from seven to 526 808. Data-driven approaches to identify phenotypes were only used in a minority of studies (7%, 13/186). Ninety-one studies (49%) investigated a phenotype based on disease severity. A phenotype based on disease trajectory, morphology and eczema herpeticum was investigated in 56 (30%), 22 (12%) and 11 (6%) studies respectively. Thirty-six studies (19%) investigated morphological characteristics in other phenotypes. Investigated associated characteristics differed between studies. In conclusion, we present an overview of phenotype definitions used in literature for severity, trajectory, morphology and eczema herpeticum, including associated characteristics. There is a lack of uniform and consistent use of atopic dermatitis phenotypes across studies.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dermatitis, Atopic* / therapy
  • Eczema*
  • Humans
  • Kaposi Varicelliform Eruption*
  • Phenotype
  • Severity of Illness Index