Harvard Heart Letter

Heart disease risks common in people with eczema

Eczema, an itchy, scaly skin disease that usually starts early in life, may make people more prone to heart disease and stroke, according to a study in the Jan. 8, 2015, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Researchers relied on data from more than 61,000 adults who took part in the 2010 and 2012 National Health Interview surveys. They found that people with eczema smoke and drink more and are less likely to exercise than people without the disease. (Sweating aggravates eczema, making exercise a challenge.) Other factors that boost heart disease risk—such as severe obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol—were also more prevalent among people with eczema. So were sleep disturbances, which were linked to even higher odds of having those risk factors.

Most people with eczema can't help scratching the intensely itchy rash, which irritates the skin and may cause infections. The body's response—a release of inflammation-fighting substances—may also play a role in heart disease.

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