Eczema: not as harmless as it looks


André Frankhuizen

Most people see eczema as an annoying, but harmless problem. American researchers have now proven that there is a link between eczema and cardiovascular disease. Is eczema actually a risk factor?


To answer this question, the data of more than 60,000 people between the ages of 18 and 85 have been analysed. This large population was taken from the National Health Interview Surveys (NHIS) from 2010 and 2012. Since 1957, the NHIS has kept its finger on the pulse of American public health.

Startling results

It was revealed that adults with eczema are more likely to be smokers and also start smoking at a younger age. They are also more likely to drink alcohol, exercise less and they are more likely to have a BMI above 35. High blood pressure and lifelong borderline diabetes are significantly more common. The correlation is greater still when eczema sufferers also have insomnia or symptoms of fatigue. In that case, there has been found to be an even higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, (borderline) diabetes and elevated cholesterol levels. These are known risk factors for cardiovascular disease.


The link has therefore been proven. However, the research was not designed to demonstrate a causal link, or to determine how eczema potentially causes other health problems. Nevertheless, the results are useful in terms of treating both cardiovascular disease and eczema. 

Eczema as a health marker

According to the researchers, eczema can be used as a marker for cardiovascular disease. If your client has eczema, he or she will also be at a higher risk. Additional checks are all the more important when your client also has problems sleeping and/or suffers from tiredness. This may mean that symptoms can possibly be identified at an earlier stage, meaning the treatment can commence earlier and the results can therefore be more productive.

Paleo diet is better than cure

In the Netherlands it has been established that 43,000 cases of cardiovascular disease could have been prevented through nutrition. The paleo diet includes high quantities of vegetables, fruit and fibre and is healthier than customary dietary advice. It reduces the triglyceride levels in the blood, therefore reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. The girth and the amount of abdominal fat reduces significantly. Supplementation with nutritional substances Astaxanthin and Fucoxanthin can be advised to help your client to lose weight.

The Mediterranean diet

It has been proven that Mediterranean food is good for the heart: it can reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke by thirty percent. This is partly on account of the healthy fats in nuts and the polyphenols in red wine and olive oil. Fish is also essential: the fatty acids in fish, EPA and DHA, have been proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Especially cold water fish is a rich source. Other lifestyle factors that merit further attention are exercise, coping with stress, sufficient fluids and cutting down on salt. 

Dealing with the itching

Eczema remains annoying: if he or she could, your client would get rid of the itching today. Proper care of the skin barrier plays a key role in this: encourage your client not to scratch, not to take hot showers, to make sure that sweat is rinsed off properly and to pat the skin dry. Vitamin E cream and gamma linoleic acid accelerate the skin’s recovery process. Finally, it is useful for your clients to keep a daily eczema journal. They should write down what they have eaten and whether they have been in contact with pets and other perpetrators of allergic symptoms. An additional benefit is that the importance of a good diet (often the culprit) becomes even clearer to your client.


  1. Mellberg C, Sandberg S, Ryberg M, et al. Long-term effects of a Palaeolithic-type diet in obese postmenopausal  women: a 2-year randomized trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 Mar;68(3):350-7.
  2. Nordic Council, Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 2012 - Part 1 2013: Copenhagen.
  3. Ramón Estruch, M.D., Ph.D., et al., Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet, N Engl J Med 2013; 368:1279-1290, April 4, 2013
  4. Silverberg J.I., Greenland, P, Eczema and cardiovascular risk factors in 2 US adult population studies, The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, January 8, 2015
  5. Website NHIS: