Eczema now joins the list of inflammatory conditions linked to cardiovascular risk.
British researchers report that individuals with severe eczema may be at greater risk for heart attack, stroke and atrial fibrillation. Their study appears in the BMJ.
Specifically, individuals with severe eczema had a 20 percent increased risk of stroke and a 40 percent to 50 percent greater risk of unstable angina, heart attack, atrial fibrillation and death from heart disease. This group also had a 70 percent increased risk for heart failure, the study showed. These risks remained after the researchers accounted for such factors as weight, smoking and alcohol use.
Still, this was an observational study, so the researchers couldn't prove cause and effect.
To arrive at their findings, the researchers compared data for more than 385,000 adults (average age 43) with eczema to up to five people of similar age and gender who didn't have eczema. Patients were classified as having mild, moderate or severe eczema and followed for an average of five years.
In an accompanying editorial, Dr. John Ingram, a consultant dermatologist at Cardiff University in Wales, writes that the new study “makes the case for targeted screening of standard CV disease risk factors. We may need to rethink thresholds for primary prevention interventions in this patient group, by factoring in severe eczema as an independent CV disease risk factor.”
Moreover, the results “will contribute to the justification for expensive next generation biologic drugs that are becoming available for atopic eczema,” he writes. “Exploring whether these eczema drugs reduce CV events in patients with severe eczema is the next important step.”