Eczema linked to bone fractures, injuries in new Northwestern study

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A new study by Northwestern University researchers now links eczema to bone fractures and other injuries. (WLS)

Eczema sufferers not only face severe skin problems - a new study by Northwestern University researchers now links the condition to bone fractures and other injuries.

Between seven and 10 percent of adults in the US have atopic dermatitis, more commonly known as eczema. And many of them have a moderate to severe form of the skin disorder.

"The chronic itch, similar to patients that have chronic pain, interferes with every aspect of their life," said Dr. Jonathan Silverberg, a Northwestern Medicine dermatologist.

Silverberg says when moisturizers and emollients don't soothe the skin, more aggressive treatment is prescribed, like topical or oral steroids, or sedating antihistamines.

"Many patients report this phenomenon that they're distracted because of their itch or because they're sleep deprived," Silverberg said.

But Silverberg says he's noticed a troubling trend and set out a year ago to study it more closely.

He says adults with eczema are at a greater risk of accidental injury, and it could be directly related to the side effects of their medications. Silverberg says sedatives cause fatigue, and steroids can lead to bone density problems.

"More and more as we see these patterns, I'm almost never using sedating antihistamines anymore," Silverberg said.

Silverberg says until better options are developed to treat eczema and itch, doctors need to advise patients to think about strategies to minimize falls and to avoid driving while using sedating antihistamines.

"If your eczema is not well-controlled and you're not sleeping well, that's a problem and we need to get better treatment for that," he said.

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