Study casts doubt about link between eczema, cardiovascular disease


Data suggests that there appears to be no associated link between atopic dermatitis (AD) and cardiovascular disease, a finding that is contrary to previous reported studies, according to a study published online in the British Journal of Dermatology (June 15, 2017).

“In our study, people who reported having atopic dermatitis were not at any increased risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart attacks or strokes,” said lead author Dr. Aaron Drucker, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, R.I.

During the study, the researchers conducted a cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project which includes 259,119 Canadian residents aged 30 to 74 years from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces.

The data showed that a diagnosis of AD was associated with somewhat reduced risk of stroke (0.79 times the odds), hypertension (0.87 times), diabetes (0.78 times) and heart attack (0.87 times).

Despite these findings, Dr. Drucker stressed that it must be emphasized that AD does not provide protection against cardiovascular disease.

“It’s important to make this clear so it doesn’t get misinterpreted,” Dr. Drucker said. “Even though we found lower rates of these outcomes with atopic dermatitis, we are not interpreting that as atopic dermatitis decreasing the risk.”

The findings are based on a statistical analysis that accounted for confounders including age, gender, ethnic background, body-mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption, sleep, physical activity, and asthma.

Link between psoriasis, cardiovascular disease

Dr. Drucker suggests that the suspicion that AD might be associated with cardiovascular disease has likely arisen from the better-substantiated association researchers have found between psoriasis and cardiovascular disease.

He added that while the two inflammatory skin conditions share some clinical similarities, they work differently at the molecular level, which might explain why only psoriasis may be associated with cardiovascular disease.

“In response to the increased risk of cardiovascular disease discovered for psoriasis, clinicians and psoriasis patients have been encouraged to more actively screen for and manage cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Drucker said. “It appears that similar measures may not be warranted for atopic dermatitis.”

Dr. Drucker acknowledged that the study could not answer the question of whether AD severity might correlate with cardiovascular disease. He said he plans to continue to pursue that question in future research.

Brown University’s Department of Dermatology provided funding for the study.

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