Those living with eczema are well aware of the frustrations brought about by the skin condition. The chronic condition, also known as “atopic dermatitis,” causes skin to become red and extremely itchy, a bothersome and often embarrassing situation for many people. While common in babies, who may develop it on their cheeks and chin, it’s also something that adults can develop.
According to the National Eczema Association, adults with the skin condition typically develop the itchiness, dryness and redness on ankles, neck, wrists, knees and elbows. It’s broken down into three categories: mild, moderate and severe. In some instances, people may itch so much that they bleed from scratching.(1)
As if that’s not bad enough, researchers from Northwestern University have discovered that eczema sufferers are also more likely to become obese, start smoking and drink more alcoholic beverages than those who don’t have the skin problem.(2)
Eczema, self-esteem and negative behaviors
Lead study author Dr. Jonathan Silverberg explains that as the long-term psychological effects of the condition begin to take their toll on these people, they’re ultimately driven towards such behaviors.
“This disease takes a huge emotional toll on its sufferers, like chronic pain,” said Silverberg. “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 behaviors.”(2)
Silverberg, who is also is director of the Northwestern Medicine Multidisciplinary Eczema Center, explains that, because many kinds of physical activity and the resulting sweat tend to worsen the condition, a great deal of people opt not to engage in exercise. In turn, they are more likely to become obese. From there, a bevy of health conditions may set in — as they may for any obese person — such as a higher risk of heart problems and sleep disturbances. Heart problems are also common among smokers and those who may become heavy drinkers, two behaviors that were also identified among those with eczema.(2)
Over 60,000 people studied: details
The study, titled “Eczema and cardiovascular risk factors in 2 US adult population studies,” was published in 2015 in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. It analyzed data involving adults aged 18 to 85 from the 2010 and 2012 National Health Interview Survey. The two populations included over 60,000 American adults.(3)
The study abstract states:
Eczema is associated with high rates of sleep disturbance and quality-of-life impairment. These factors might have a negative impact on psychosocial development and behavior and could increase cardiovascular risk.(3)
The abstract notes:
Adults with eczema had higher odds of ever smoking 100 cigarettes in their lifetime…. Adults with a history of eczema had lower odds of daily vigorous activity… and lower frequency of vigorous activity in the past week… than did adults without a history of eczema. Those with eczema had a higher body mass index than did those without eczema… particularly a body mass index of 35 or more….(3)
Paving the way for better eczema management
Overall, the findings home in on “the importance of behavioral modification and perhaps more aggressive interventions to better manage eczema.”(3)
According to the Mayo Clinic, alternative treatments may help alleviate the symptoms.
Aromatherapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, plant-based therapies such as tea tree oil and licorice, and turning to dietary supplements like evening primrose oil may help improve the condition. Some people have found that such practices reduce itching and scaling.(4)
About the author:
A science enthusiast with a keen interest in health nutrition, Antonia has been intensely researching various dieting routines for several years now, weighing their highs and their lows, to bring readers the most interesting info and news in the field. While she is very excited about a high raw diet, she likes to keep a fair and balanced approach towards non-raw methods of food preparation as well.