The number of students suffering from atopic dermatitis is on the rise, according to a survey of schools in eight prefectures released Wednesday by the Japan Atopic Dermatitis Patients Association.

Of the 275 elementary, junior high and high schools that responded to the survey, 55 percent reported the number of students with atopic dermatitis is increasing.

Atopic dermatitis is characterized by inflammation, itching and scaling of the skin.

Health officials at schools in Hokkaido, Miyagi, Niigata, Tokyo, Aichi, Osaka, Okayama and Fukuoka prefectures were surveyed.

The survey showed atopic dermatitis prevalent among 8.4 percent of elementary school pupils, 5.3 percent of junior high school students and 4.4 percent of high school students.

The report showed little variation by prefecture.

The responding schools said they had rid school lunch menus of foods believed to cause the ailment, but faced such problems as parents’ hesitancy to provide their children with medical treatment.

House dust was believed by 47 percent of the schools to be the major cause of the disorder, while 29 percent cited foods.

Stress was cited as a cause by 10 percent or less of elementary and junior high schools, but by 20 percent of high schools.

More than 30 percent of elementary schools surveyed said their pupils’ conditions may worsen because they repeatedly scratch their skin.

Stress was also reported by more than 30 percent of junior high and high schools as a factor contributing to worsening conditions.

A number of schools surveyed criticized parents’ lack of response to their children’s complaints. The schools also cited unsuccessful treatments as a possible reason many children continue to suffer from the disorder.