Having eczema does more than just cause red, swollen, dry, scaly, and itchy skin patches. New research shows that this chronic inflammatory condition may also lead to joint and bone fractures. Dr. Jonathan Silverberg, M.D., Ph.D., a Northwestern University assistant professor of dermatology, and his research team conducted research using a sizable group of diverse subjects. They discovered that eczema’s itchiness kept patients up overnight, which caused drowsy days and injuries, including broken limbs.
Sleep Difficulties Cause Accidental Breakages
A new study of 34,500 adults ages 18 to 85 found that eczema increased injured joint and broken bone risks with advancing age, peaking between 50 and 69. Participants in the study included nearly 2,500 patients suffering from eczema and more than 32,000 people who were not. The researchers determined that 1.5 percent of the 7.2 percent of subjects who had eczema flare-ups in the previous year suffered joint or bone damage or breaks. Another 0.6 percent experienced other injury types that limited normal physical function. Compared to healthy controls, eczema more than doubled participants’ risks of joint or bone injuries or fractures.
Research linked eczema with significantly higher injury rates. Patients’ likelihood of sustaining joint or bone traumas or breaks was 1.67 times higher, and their odds of other injuries were 1.44 times greater than non-eczema participants. But those chances rose even more among subjects who also had injury-prone risk factors including itchiness-induced distraction, sleep disturbances and deprivation, plus behavioral and psychological disorders.
According to Silverberg’s team, previous studies showed that sleep disturbances plagued eczema patients more frequently than control subjects. Losing sleep while struggling with overnight itchiness can contribute to daytime drowsiness. Inadequate sleep might also reduce brain functioning as well as motor control, possibly increasing injury risks. Struggling with active eczema for many years can affect patients’ bones and organs adversely.
These cumulative findings indicate that eczema is a new risk factor for injuries including fractures among adults. Silverberg noted that these eczema patients probably would benefit from getting better control of this skin disease. The researchers emphasized the significance of the medical community devising safer interventions for eczema’s itchiness and related sleep problems along with preventive measures to reduce injuries among these patients.
Eczema Treatment Options
Skin irritations, allergies, and genetics can cause eczema. Although this troublesome rash is incurable, your doctor can help you develop a treatment plan to minimize your outbreaks and frustrating symptoms. He or she will base yourtreatmenton multiple factors including your age, symptom severity, and medical history. Dermatologists typically recommend a multi-pronged therapeutic approach to optimize results.
Keep these four major treatment goals in mind:
Control your itching
Heal your skin rash
Ward off infections
Eczema medications include:
Corticosteroids: Hydrocortisone treatments help relieve itching and decrease inflammation quickly. Dermatologists usually reserve oral steroids for the most severe flare-ups.
Topical immunomodulators: Elidel Cream (Pimecrolimus) and Prograf(Tacrolimus) help relieve some moderate to severe eczema cases. While these medications aren’t steroids, they help reduce swelling.
Barrier repair moisturizers: Non-steroidal creams like Epiceramrepair damage and lock moisture in your skin to reduce redness, dryness, and itching.
Immunosuppressants: Drugs such as Cyclosporine help to suppress immune system overreactions.
Antihistamines: Taking antihistamines at bedtime can help relieve overnight itching. Benadryl, an over-the-counter option, causes drowsiness, so it also may induce sleep.
Antibiotics: Scratching itchy patches can damage your skin and allow bacteria to cause infections, which you can treat with antibiotics.
If you also suffer from osteoporosis, your doctor may prescribe Actonel, a bisphosphonate that prevents osteoporotic bone breakdown and fractures.
Practice Good Skin Care Habits
Take care of your skin by following these dermatologist-recommended tips:Bathe or shower in warm water only. Hot water will dry out your skin. Use gentle cleansers rather than harsh soaps or alcohol-based liquid cleansers. Avoid body scrubbers and washcloths that may cause irritation. Afterward, pat your skin with a soft towel, leaving it damp.
Limit bathing, showering, and hand washing. Too much water exposure will dry out your skin.
Use moisturizers daily. Apply a fragrance-free moisturizer right after baths, showers, and hand washing. At night, spread a thicker layer of oil-enriched ointment or cream. Cover treated hands and feet with cotton gloves and socks to lock in healing moisture. Sleeping in gloves also can help stop you from scratching itchy skin overnight.
Restrict skin irritant contact. Learn which household cleaning products, laundry detergents, bubble baths, perfumed soaps, cosmetics, and other common irritants aggravate your eczema and then avoid them.
Choose cotton fabrics and loose-fitting clothes. Wool, other rough materials, and synthetic textiles can irritate your skin. Before wearing new clothes, wash them in gentle, fragrance-free laundry soap. Always rinse laundry thoroughly. Tight clothes can rub and irritate eczema patches, so wear less restrictive apparel.
Prevent overheating and sweating. Being hot and perspiring can trigger itching, skin irritation, and scratching.
Avoid environmental triggers. If allergens including pollens, molds, dust mites, and animal dander cause eczema reactions, reduce your exposure.
Decrease stress. Make time to relax because lowering stress will help diminish eczema flare-ups.