Eczema, which is more prevalent in Black children, doesn’t just irritate kids’ skin. The often disfiguring condition may also be tied to depression, anxiety and sleep difficulties, new research warns.
A study of more than 11,000 British children and teens found that those with severe eczema were twice as likely to become clinically depressed as eczema-free kids.
“Eczema is an itchy red skin disease,” study author Dr. Katrina Abuabara, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco says.
But it’s complex.
“The disease course and severity can be quite variable,” Abuabara explains. “It often presents in early childhood, but can occur at any age. It tends to be episodic, flaring up, then remitting, but these cycles can be chronic over years.
“For many children, the disease seems to improve by their teen years, but we’ve found that some continue to have episodic disease into adulthood,” she adds.
The risk goes up among those with a family history of the disease or related conditions like asthma and allergies. And the condition “is quite common. According to the National Eczema Association, 20.2% of Black children in the United States have some form of eczema.
Among the children she and her colleagues started tracking in 1991, the annual prevalence of eczema — also known as atopic dermatitis — ranged from 14% to 19% between the ages of 3 and 18.
Roughly 22% to 40% developed a moderate or severe form of the disease; the rest of the cases were mild.
In addition to being linked to a doubling of depression risk, severe eczema also doubled the risk for the kind of depressive and/or anxiety-linked behaviors that typically