If you have eczema, you are already dealing with the effects of a chronic inflammatory disease… the itching, the flare-ups, the discomfort. But did you know eczema has a relationship to other health issues? There are additional connections being discovered and explored between eczema and other health conditions that go beyond skin-deep. But before we begin, this is the part where I, like a good doctor, have to tell you that you will absolutely not get all or even most of the possible health issues tied to eczema. This isn’t a definitive map to your future. But knowledge is power, especially with a chronic condition. This list should be seen as a smart guide to what conditions you should be aware of as you seek to live your healthiest life with eczema. Of note, eczema is commonly called “atopic dermatitis” by doctors. One of the best remedies for keeping severe eczema at bay will always be our very own daily Eczema Body Wash for kids and adults alike. Eczema + Allergies, Asthma and Hay Fever It’s well-documented that eczema patients are prone to asthma, allergies and hay fever. About 20% of adults with eczema have asthma, an allergic condition that causes a person’s airways to become inflamed, swollen and narrow. As many as 15% of children with eczema have an allergy to one or more types of food. While the precise reason for this interrelationship is still a mystery to scientists, they may be the result of eczema-related inflammation affecting the entire body, because when it comes to the human system, everything is interconnected in ways we still don’t fully understand. You can view it as the way your unique body is built… to have a strong immune response to certain environmental and food triggers. And understanding your body and making peace with some of its foibles will play an important part in managing your symptoms. Eczema + Sleep Disturbances & Injury What does the itchy condition have to do with breaking bones? A dermatological study published by JAMA in 2014 found that people with recent eczema flare-ups were more likely to have experienced a bone or joint injury, like a fracture. The study pointed to another eczema side-effect as the culprit: sleep disturbances. When you’re plagued by chronic itching that wakes you or keeps you up at night — or if you’re in an antihistamine fog from taking medicine to relieve the itch — you are at higher risk for taking a tumble or experiencing a car accident. Adding to that, severe cases of eczema may be treated with oral steroids, which can affect bone density over time. That’s why it’s important to balance your treatment with topical steroids, natural remedies, and gentle skin care, which don’t pose a risk to your bone density and are far easier on the body than oral steroids. Eczema and Depression or Anxiety Once again, the body is an exquisitely intertwined creation, and when one thing is going awry physically, it can set off emotional issues. Just like with injury, sleep disturbances play a role in eczema and mental health, triggering anxiety and/or depression brought on by a consistent lack of rest. Missed sleep contributes to poor focus, mood swings, and even a suppressed immune system…which leaves you vulnerable to sickness and infection. Add to that the fact that the red, rough patches that are the hallmark of eczema can cause distress, embarrassment, and frustration. You have a beautiful new dress you wanted to wear to a big event or an important meeting to attend, and eczema suddenly makes its appearance, ruining your plans and/or zapping your confidence. That’s why I always preach the gospel of gentle moisturizing care when eczema flares up. A dependable, thoughtful routine helps minimize flare-ups and give you a plan to turn to when the inevitable triggers show up and do their thing. Eczema and Heart Problems Research has been conflicting when it comes to this topic. In recent years some studies have shown that adults with atopic dermatitis may have a higher risk of developing heart disease, including high blood pressure, and high cholesterol or triglycerides. Some studies even found an association with heart attack, arrhythmia and stroke. And then conversely but reassuringly, other very large studies have found no association whatsoever with atopic dermatitis and cardiovascular disease. Absent more detailed information, prevention becomes key. If your eczema happens to fall into the severe category, I encourage you to take action. Pursue ways to protect your heart health right now. That means engaging in an active lifestyle, eating a balanced diet low in saturated fats and salt, and not smoking (or quitting if you already started). Eczema and Your Overall Health There is a lot we doctors know. There’s a lot we don’t know. But without a shadow of a doubt, pursuing a healthy lifestyle and a caring approach to our bodies is good policy, with or without eczema. Knowing which types of shampoo to buy, which kinds of eczema creams to use, and what situations trigger your skin condition may seem terribly basic…but they are an essential personal strategy to caring for your body in a way that will minimize the rise of any additional health issues. You don’t get a say in whether you get eczema or not. But you do get a say in whether you’ll let it run amok in your body. Let’s all work together to keep it in its lane.