Eczema may signal higher risk of cardiovascular problems

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About one in 10 people has eczema, a chronic inflammatory condition that leaves skin dry and itchy. People with more severe forms may experience a scaly rash or skin that cracks and oozes. These people may also be at greater risk for heart attack and stroke, according to a study in the May 23 issue of The BMJ.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 385,000 adults with eczema, which was classified as mild, moderate, or severe. Each was matched with up to five people of similar age and sex who didn't have eczema.

After a five-year follow-up, the researchers found that people with severe eczema had a 40% to 50% increased risk of heart attack, atrial fibrillation, and death from heart disease, as well as a 20% higher risk of stroke. The risks remained even after the researchers accounted for confounding factors such as weight, smoking, and alcohol use.

The study authors suggested that people with severe eczema should be screened for risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.