While many of us suffer from skin concerns, for most of us, they clear up after high school or university. Up to one in ten adults will suffer from atopic eczema at some point in their life and, for some, it continues throughout adulthood. The causes of this inflammatory skin condition are well understood – skin barrier and immune system defects –but in recent decades, the skin disorder has been connected to other health issues.
This led to a new study in which a team of researchers examined the association between atopic eczema and cardiovascular events with the intent of determining whether the presence of atopic eczema was related to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. They also sought to determine if the severity of a patient’s atopic eczema affected the likelihood of a cardiovascular event and whether prolonged bouts of eczema had any effect on risk of cardiovascular disease later on.
The researchers examined atopic eczema patients and the number of reported cardiovascular events through data collected from a set of national databases providing anonymous condition information and mortality rates. The experimental group consisted of 387,439 atopic eczema patients and the control group consisted of 1,528,477 non-eczema patients. The patients contributed data to the databases for an average of five years. The data used was collected between 1998 and 2015.
Eczema Increases Risk of Stroke, Angina, and Cardiovascular Complications
The results of the analysis showed a moderately increased risk of cardiovascular events in patients with atopic eczema. The risk associated with atopic eczema related only to non-fatal cardiovascular events, however. There was also a relationship between the severity of the eczema and the level of risk increase. “Patients with severe atopic eczema were at a 20 percent increased risk of stroke, 40-50 percent increased risk of unstable angina, myocardial infarction, atrial fibrillation, and cardiovascular death, and 70 percent increased risk of heart failure,” write the researchers. These increased risks were also found in the patients with the most active eczema.
This study is so far the largest study of its kind. The data used, collected from primary care resources, also means that the results can be generalized across the broad atopic eczema population. The data were also adjusted to avoid the potential bias of participants’ body mass index, smoking, and alcohol use on the results.
The results of the study are limited to patients with severe or more active eczema. The increased cardiovascular risks associated with atopic eczema remained even when adjusted for other common heart disease precursors or indicators. The mechanisms behind the connection require further research, but there is a foundation for the hypothesis that atopic eczema would be related to cardiovascular events as it is an inflammatory condition.
The researchers behind the current study believe that these results should be given consideration in terms of screening and treatment processes for patients with atopic eczema and that these should focus on identifying the potential for risk of cardiovascular events in patients with severe or very active atopic eczema.