Adults who have eczema appear to have higher rates of smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages, and obesity, and are less likely to exercise than adults who don't have the disease, according to a study published January 8, 2015, in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
These behaviours give this patient population a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. They also have higher rates of insomnia.
"This disease takes a huge emotional toll on its sufferers, like chronic pain," said lead author Jonathan Silverberg, MD, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois. "Because eczema often starts in early childhood, people are affected all through their developmental years and adolescence. It hurts their self-esteem and identity. That's part of why we see all these negative behaviours."
Adding to eczema patients' health woes is difficulty exercising because sweat and heat aggravate the itching.
"They will avoid anything that triggers the itch," said Dr. Silverberg. "Patients report their eczema flares during a workout. This opens our eyes in the world of dermatology that wère not just treating chronic inflammation of the skin but the behavioural, lifestyle side of things."
The study analysed data for 27,157 and 34,525 adults aged 18 to 85 years from the 2010 and 2012 National Health Interview Survey.
Patients with eczema had 54% higher odds of being morbidly obese, 48% higher odds of hypertension, up to 93% higher odds of having pre-diabetes, and up to 42% higher odds of having diabetes. They also had 36% higher odds of high cholesterol.
Dr. Silverberg said patients should be offered interventions for alcohol and smoking by their dermatologists.
The authors are also trying to figure out how patients with eczema can exercise to improve their health without worsening their skin flare-ups.