SOURCES: Jonathan Silverberg, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor, dermatology, Northwestern University, Chicago; Doris Day, M.D., dermatologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Oct. 29, 2014 JAMA Dermatology
THURSDAY, Oct. 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The skin condition eczema may increase slightly the risk of broken bones and injured joints, a new study reports.
In a study of 34,500 adults, researchers found that among 7 percent of people who had an eczema flare-up in the past year, 1.5 percent had a bone or joint injury and 0.6 percent had an injury that caused a limitation of function.
Compared to people without eczema, those with the skin condition had more than double the risk of having had a fracture or bone or joint injury, according to the study.
"Adults with eczema have higher rates of injuries, including fractures and bone and joint injuries," said lead researcher Dr. Jonathan Silverberg, an assistant professor of dermatology at Northwestern University in Chicago.
Although this study found an association between eczema and bone and joint injuries, it wasn't designed to prove whether eczema is somehow a direct cause of those injuries.
Another expert said follow-up research is necessary. "Further studies would be needed to show if there's a direct effect or association of eczema with bone condition and strength over time," said Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"The skin is often a reflection of the general health and well-being of our patients. Sometimes the connection is direct, but often it's more subtle," Day said.
The study was published online Oct. 29 in JAMA Dermatology.
Eczema is a chronic inflammatory condition of the skin that causes red, itchy, scaly patches. Eczema is not contagious, and is often triggered by allergies, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI).
The study included about 2,500 people with eczema and more than 32,000 without the skin condition.
The researchers found the risk of injuries increased with age and peaked at 50 to 69, he said.
"Eczema by itself was associated with higher rates of injuries. However, adults with eczema who also had sleep disturbance or psychiatric and behavioral disorders had even higher risk of injuries than those with eczema alone," Silverberg said.
Adults with eczema have a number of risk factors for injuries, including distraction caused by itch, sleep deprivation, psychological and behavioral disorders, and the use of sleep aids and steroids that may lower bone strength, he said.
Although there's no cure for eczema, treatments can help control it, which include moisturizers and topical steroids to control itching and reduce swelling, according to the AAAAI.
Oral steroids are usually reserved for more severe flare-ups, according to Day. However, over many years this can have an effect on bones and other organs, Day said.
"Adults with eczema would likely benefit from improved control of their skin disease and less use of medications that might increase the risk of injury," Silverberg said.
For more on eczema, visit the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases .