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Eczema/AD linked to higher risk of eating disorders

Photo by James Heilman, MD via Wikimedia Commons

A new study has found a significant association between eczema/atopic dermatitis and an increased risk of developing certain eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.

The study, published in the March 11 edition of the British Journal of Dermatology, analyzed data from more than 254,000 electronic medical records (12,000 patients with eczema/AD). In the study, researchers from the Yale School of Medicine and Yale School of Public Health found that individuals with eczema/AD were about twice as likely as those without the disease to have anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and three times as likely to have binge eating disorder.

“Early detection of eating disorders is essential, and understanding that those with eczema are at higher risk may help with early diagnosis,” Dr. Jeffrey M. Cohen, a dermatology professor and co-author of the study said in a press release. “Both eczema and eating disorders have a profound impact on an individual's life.”

The researchers suggest eating disorders may develop as a coping mechanism for eczema patients struggling with depression, anxiety, and perceived lack of control over their body image due to unpredictable symptom flares. They say it is also possible the chronic, low-grade inflammation associated with eczema/AD could play a role, and further research is needed to fully understand the link between eczema/AD and mental health.

“This study is a transdisciplinary collaboration and is one of the first reports of its kind,” noted Marney A. White, a clinical psychologist and public health professor and a co-author.

“The findings are important for clinicians working with skin disease patients, to understand the significant body image disturbances that can occur, and to refer patients to psychological support.”


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