Research is starting to point towards eczema (atopic dermatitis) being a condition that doesn’t just affect the skin. It could involve multiple organs, which is more than previously believed.
This might be due to the eczema causing other problems that are indirectly related – sleep problems, mental health problems, and overuse of steroids contributing to osteoarthritis are just some examples.
There seems to be intersections of disease, including neurological/cognitive, along with the one we knew about – other allergies. There have also been some associations of eczema with sexual dysfunction and cardiovascular disease, and while these associations remain controversial and more data are required, there are some interesting ideas being tossed around.
A direct relationship between two conditions can’t be assumed to exist, and drawing lines between conditions without much backing isn’t very meaningful in real life for dermatologists treating eczema patients. In cases where there is allergic overlap – that is, eczema combined with flare-ups of eyelid and facial dermatitis, for example – the allergies may not be related to hayfever, since the two conditions operate via different mechanisms. Importantly, hayfever can cause itching that sets off the itch-scratch cycle that can worsen eczema, and before you know it, one problem becomes two. Another area of overlap in people with eczema can be allergies that provoke hives (urticaria), again triggering the itch-scratch cycle.
While skin conditions seem an obvious link (but may not necessarily be), there are other non-skin related conditions that seem to more often appear together in people with eczema. One such feature is that eczema sufferers tend to have disturbances to sleep that may or may not be related to itching and scratching. A lack of proper rest can cause many secondary conditions resulting from fatigue and improper rejuvenation, including psychological disturbances.
The association of eczema with osteoporosis remains complex, but may be due to systemic use of corticosteroids regularly throughout one’s life, even in short bursts.
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