Eczema and Emotional Toll
Why Eczema Treatments Must Extend Past the Skin
Research Spotlight: Suicidal Ideation in Adult Patients with Atopic Dermatitis: A German Cross-sectional Study.
Why Does This Matter?
- Physicians currently do not have to examine a patient’s emotional well-being when prescribing an effective eczema treatment
- There is no current cure for eczema, leaving untreated eczema patients to deal with the skin condition’s negative effects on emotional health, including lowered self-esteem
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, afflicts millions of Americans. For those who suffer from eczema as adults, their condition can have a negative impact at many levels. Aside from the appearance of the rash and potentially severe itch, atopic dermatitis can impact a patient’s mental health. Recently, a team of German researchers brought to attention the emotional effects of eczema, in their overarching mission to find how eczema treatment can affect patients emotionally.
Eczema Patients Have Increased Anxiety and Depression
First, the researchers gathered 181 patients who suffered from eczema, as well as 64 individuals with healthy skin to use for comparison. The researchers then gave each patient multiple questionnaires inquiring about their thoughts of suicide, depression and anxiety, eczema severity, and their attitudes towards their skin. From the questionnaires, 21.3% of eczema patients reported having recent suicidal ideation in contrast with 0% of the control group. This statistic is significantly higher than the normal suicide risk (3.9%). With this information, the researchers identified potential factors for the eczema patients’ heightened suicidality, such as greater depression symptoms, the severity of their eczema, and the fact that their family members often touched them less compared to a healthy-skinned individual.
Eczema Treatments Must Also Address Patients’ Emotional Well-being
These results invite a broader conversation regarding the connection between psychological and physical health. Specifically, the increased anxiety resulting from eczema can ultimately lead to thoughts of suicide, which further indicates the immense emotional damage that eczema can cause. Routine psychiatric screenings may be considered for these patients, given the high rate of suicidal ideations associated with atopic dermatitis patients found in this study. Clinicians can bear in mind that treating eczema goes beyond just the skin, with the potential to heal someone’s shattered self-image. Discussing and evaluating the emotional impact of eczema is therefore essential for future perspectives on this multi-faceted disease.
1. Dieris-Hirche J, Gieler U, Petrak F, Milch W, Te Wildt B, Dieris B, Herpertz S. Suicidal Ideation in Adult Patients with Atopic Dermatitis: A German Cross-sectional Study. Acta Derm Venereol. 2017 Nov 15;97(10):1189-1195. doi: 10.2340/00015555-2741. PMID: 28676884.