Chronic Itch Linked to Sleep Loss Increases Heart Disease Risk

A man not able to get to sleep because of stressPeople who suffer from sleep loss and heart disease may also have chronic pruritic dermatosis. This connection was found by John Hopkins Medicine researchers who found a common protein in all patients who exhibited the three health issues.

Many people suffer from the skin disorder, commonly referred to as “chronic itch,” and recent research has suggested that it may be at the root of other related medical conditions. It has previously been associated with multiple sleep disturbances, including repeated early morning and nighttime awakening which results in a loss of sleep quality. This loss of sleep has been linked to fatigue, anxiety, and even depression, all of which have lasting and negative overall health impacts. These previous findings are what prompted the new study, which was published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology.


Researchers believed that going a step further in their study would provide more evidence that the connection between chronic itch and sleep loss exists, and that these patients may be at greater risk for cardiac disease. This relationship can be indicated by elevated levels of a circulating protein, sometimes used to predict heart problems.

For the study, researchers examined data from 5,560 U.S. adults who were part of the 2005-2006 edition of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a federal database tracking the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States over long periods of time.

Chronic Itch and Sleep Disturbances

The study confirmed the link between chronic pruritic dermatosis and sleep disturbances, including trouble falling asleep, waking during the night or early morning, leg jerks or cramps, and daily fatigue. These disturbances were found to be more likely in patients with elevated blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). This protein, which is produced in the liver, is sent into the bloodstream in response to inflammation. It is commonly used to predict cardiovascular disease when other biomarkers such as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol are at a normal level.

Shawn Kwatra, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, spoke about the findings saying, “CRP levels were 52.8% higher among chronic pruritic dermatosis patients reporting trouble sleeping compared to those who did not. This suggests that along with the reduction in quality of life brought on by chronic itch, these patients also may have heightened cardiometabolic risk.”

Kwatra adds, “While chronic pain is well recognized in the medical community, many patients with chronic itch quietly suffer because there are no approved therapies for the condition.”

This study helps to outline the importance of looking for the root cause of illness and disease instead of simply treating the symptoms. By tracing cardiovascular events back to chronic itch, it put researchers in line to better understand the underlying issues in the body, which could cause such outcomes. More research is needed to find the relationship between the CRP levels and how exactly it contributes to a heightened risk of heart disease.

Author Bio

About eight years ago, Mat Lecompte had an epiphany. He’d been ignoring his health and suddenly realized he needed to do something about it. Since then, through hard work, determination and plenty of education, he has transformed his life. He’s changed his body composition by learning the ins and outs of nutrition, exercise, and fitness and wants to share his knowledge with you. Starting as a journalist over 10 years ago, Mat has not only honed his belief system and approach with practical experience, but he has also worked closely with nutritionists, dieticians, athletes, and fitness professionals. He embraces natural healing methods and believes that diet, exercise and willpower are the foundation of a healthy, happy, and drug-free existence.


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