Heart Problem Risk in People with Severe Eczema
A study has found that people who suffer from severe eczema have an increased risk of heart problems such as stroke, heart failure and heart attack.
The UK study found a small increase in risk, but it was not clear what the reason is for the link.
About 10% of people worldwide suffer from atopic eczema, the most common type of eczema. It causes the skin to become dry, red and cracked. It can affect any part of the body, but is most common on the hands, insides of the elbows, back of the knees, and face and scalp.
The condition is more common in children and can improve as they get older, although adults can also develop it.
There are known to be other health problems that people with atopic eczema can develop, for example bacterial and viral skin infections. And there has also been some mixed evidence about a connection between atopic eczema and heart problems.
This new study from a team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine claims to have proved this link.
The research team studied of the health records of more than 380,000 people with atopic eczema and 1.5 million people without the condition.
They analysed whether eczema was linked to heart problems such as stroke, heart failure and heart attack.
The results, published in the British Medical Journal, showed that atopic eczema is associated with a moderately increased risk of non-fatal heart problems.
Compared to people without eczema, people with severe atopic eczema had a 67% increased risk of heart failure, a 41% increased risk of unstable angina, a 37% increased risk of heart attack, a 35% increased risk of atrial fibrillation (abnormal heart rate) and a 30% increased risk of cardiovascular death.
For people with mild eczema there was little, if any, increase in the risk of heart problems.
It is unclear what is behind this link. The researchers think it may be because the long-term inflammation caused by eczema damages the heart, or that it could be due to long-term use of medication for severe eczema.
Experts have advised that although there is an increased risk of heart problems for people with severe atopic eczema, the absolute risk is still small. The researchers advise that GPs are made aware of this increased risk.
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