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Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2011 May-Jun;77(3):288-93. doi: 10.4103/0378-6323.79697.

Evaluation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in patients with atopic dermatitis.

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Department of Dermatology, Venerology and Leprology, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India.



Most of the research on atopic dermatitis (AD) has focused on the pathophysiological role of the immune system in AD, and the role of endocrine signals in the pathology of AD has not been explored. Current research has shown a link between the neuroendocrine and immune functions.


The aim was to measure the serum basal cortisol levels and cortisol levels following a low-dose ACTH stimulation test in patients with AD before and after treatment with corticosteroids.


Three groups of patients with AD were evaluated: mild, moderate, and severe. Basal cortisol levels following an ACTH stimulation test were measured before and after treatment with topical steroids when an improvement in the disease activity by 75% as determined by the SCORAD index was observed.


Eighteen patients of the severe group at baseline showed an impaired hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis with cortisol levels <250 nmol/l during their first visit. A total of 13 of 18 patients regained their HPA axis activity when the baseline cortisol was measured after using topical corticosteroids which resulted in 75% improvement in the disease activity.


The disease activity rather than the use of topical corticosteroids is responsible for the low basal levels in patients with severe AD.

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