Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a chronic inflammatory disorder that is associated with other chronic diseases (eg, asthma), major quality-of-life impairment, sleep disturbance, and the use of potent topical and sometimes systemic corticosteroids, all of which might affect growth in childhood and adolescence. However, previous smaller-scale studies found conflicting results.
To determine whether eczema is associated with short stature.
Design, Setting, and Participants
We used data from 9 US population-based studies, including the National Survey of Children’s Health (2003-2004 and 2007-2008), National Health Interview Survey (children’s health, 2008-2012; adult health, 2010 and 2012), and National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2003-2004 and 2005-2006). Participants included 264 326 children and adolescents and 83 511 adults.
History of eczema.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Percentiles of height for age and sex in children and height in adults. We constructed multivariate survey linear or logistic regression models for individual studies with Box-Cox transformed or dichotomized height, respectively. Pooled analyses used generalized linear mixed models.
Overall, eczema was not associated with significant differences of height (continuous or <5th or <25th percentiles) in any of the studies or in the pooled analyses. We found a significant interaction by age, such that eczema was associated with shorter stature at 12 to 13 but not 14 to 15 or 16 to 17 years of age or in adulthood. Moderate to severe eczema was associated with shorter stature (continuous and <25th percentile). In particular, short stature (<5th percentile) was associated with eczema only when accompanied by an indicator of insufficient sleep (ie, 0 to 3 nights of sufficient sleep per week) (1.3% of children with eczema) but was not associated with asthma, hay fever, or use of prescription medication. The interaction between eczema and insufficient sleep remained significant at 10 to 11 years of age (P = .003) but not at other ages (P > .08 for all).
Conclusions and Relevance
Eczema is not associated with short stature overall. However, a small subset of children and adolescents with severe eczema accompanied by prominent insufficient sleep may have potentially reversible vertical growth impairment.