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Atopic eczema linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease

Published online: December 18, 2018

Rates of atopic eczema, a chronic inflammatory skin disease, are increasing across the world. At the same time, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death. There is growing evidence that different inflammatory conditions are associated with increased rates of CVD. Some studies have described a link between atopic eczema and various cardiovascular diseases; however, results have been inconsistent.

In a recent study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) researchers from the UK, Canada, Denmark and the USA investigated the link between atopic eczema and CVD. Ascott and colleagues performed a systematic review to identify, assess and combine the learning from previous studies. They pooled individual study findings together using statistical techniques called meta-analyses. The authors found 19 population-based, observational studies that looked at the link between atopic eczema and cardiovascular diseases including angina, heart attack, heart failure and stroke. They also looked at whether increasing atopic eczema severity had any impact on the risk of CVD.

Whilst results from the cross-sectional studies (data looking at people at one point in time) were too mixed to draw conclusions, the cohort studies (following people over time) showed that atopic eczema was associated with a small increased risk of angina, heart attack, heart failure and ischaemic stroke. Compared to people with mild atopic eczema, the risk of developing any of the cardiovascular diseases under study, including angina, heart attack, heart failure, stroke and cardiovascular death, was 15% greater in people with moderate atopic eczema and 32% greater in people with severe atopic eczema.

Atopic eczema is a common disease, therefore a small increase in CVD risk, particularly if this association is causal, would be highly relevant in an increasingly ageing and comorbid global population. The finding that CVD risk is higher in people with more severe atopic eczema, at a population level, is important for patients and physicians, as it could inform the development of better prevention and treatment strategies. The authors suggest that the next steps will be to try to understand why atopic eczema could confer a greater risk of CVD, including investigating whether medications used for atopic eczema could play a role.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is an official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.