Background Surveys of the prevalence of atopic dermatitis (AD) have been carried out world-wide, but the results vary widely. The differences probably result from the use of different diagnostic criteria. Williams et al. proposed minimum, simplified, diagnostic criteria that require no invasive test and are easy to use. Pilot studies in European countries showed their suitability for implementation both in hospitals and in the community, and their high sensitivity and specificity.
Objectives To evaluate the potential practical value of the criteria of Williams et al. in the Chinese population.
Methods The criteria of Hanifin and Rajka (gold standard), Williams et al. and Kang and Tian were applied and compared in 111 patients with AD and 121 control subjects with other skin diseases in three out-patient centres in China.
Results The criteria of Williams et al. showed a similar diagnostic efficiency to that of the gold standard, with the sensitivity, specificity and κ value reaching 95·50%, 97·52% and 0·93, respectively. No significant difference was found between the criteria of Williams et al. and those of Kang and Tian (χ2 = 0·69, P > 0·05). ‘Onset under the age of 2 years’, a criterion of Williams et al. could be used in subjects of any age.
Conclusions The diagnostic efficiency of the criteria of Williams et al. was basically similar to those of Hanifin and Rajka and of Kang and Tian in our out-patient settings. However, those of Williams et al. were easier to apply and required no invasive tests.