Eczema can be a burden on the mind as well the body, a new survey shows.

People with eczema are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, and it worsens when additional allergic symptoms occur, according to a study to be presented Thursday at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif.

Nearly three out of four (72%) patients with atopic dermatitis (AD) — the medical term for eczema — report having symptoms of poor mental health for up to 10 days during the previous month, results show.

About one in five (17%) said they had symptoms of poor mental health for 11 or more days.

“People who don’t have AD don’t understand how debilitating it can be,” said lead study author Allison Loiselle, senior manager of data science and research with the National Eczema Association.

“As well as the terrible itching and dry, cracked skin, there are often disruptions to sleep and wider effects on quality of life and general well-being,” Loiselle said in an ACAAI news release. “Depression and anxiety are among the symptoms of those who have AD and deal with the chronic and unpredictable nature of this condition.”

For the study, researchers surveyed nearly 1,000 people with eczema. About a third of the patients (36%) reported their current eczema as mild.

Despite the toll eczema took on their mental health, one-third (35%) of patients said they’d never discussed mental health with their allergist and 57% said they’d never been asked about it.

However, nearly half (45%) said their allergist had referred them to mental health services.

“It can be extremely difficult to live with AD,” said Tamara Hubbard, a licensed clinical professional counselor and member of the ACAAI. “The itching can be relentless, and many also fear that AD will negatively affect their appearance.”

People with eczema have reported suffering from social impairment, emotional and behavioral problems, and significant psychological problems such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

“Working with an allergist to seek treatments that reduce the effects of AD, along with a mental health professional, can help address the emotional and psychological effects of AD,” said Hubbard, who was not part of the study.

Findings presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The Cleveland Clinic has more about eczema.

SOURCE: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, news release, Nov. 9, 2023