Eczema Patients Didn't Come Up Short

Eczema tied to short stature only in patients with sleep problems, but even those patients likely grew to a normal height

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) It's itchy, dry, and bothersome and can even affect your sleep quality — but eczema doesn't likely affect your adult height, despite claims from past research.

Overall, eczema patients were not shorter than people without the skin disease, a new study found.

“In my clinical experience, I do not see a link between shorter children and eczema either,” said Coyle S. Connolly, DO, dermatologist and president of Connolly Dermatology in New Jersey, in an interview with dailyRx News. “Eczema, is a condition which requires diligent  professional and parental supervision to ensure that the child is given a healthy diet, moisturizers, and appropriate topical and oral medications to control the severe itch.  Restful sleep is vital to promote both healthy skin and overall well being.”

Eczema patients often have trouble sleeping because of the itchiness and discomfort associated with the disorder — and too little sleep is associated with slowed growth.

“Those individuals affected may have difficulty sleeping soundly throughout the night," Dr. Connolly said. "Since natural growth hormone is regulated in part by normal sleep cycles, frequent interruptions in sleep patterns may lead to diminished vertical growth in some children."

A small group of children with this itchy, chronic inflammatory disease were shorter than their peers at around 10 or 11 years old. These children also reported trouble sleeping. However, they likely caught up with their peers in height a few years later, wrote study authors Jonathan I. Silverberg, MD, PhD, and Amy S. Paller, MD, of Northwestern University in Chicago. Adults who had eczema in this study were not notably shorter than those without eczema.

About 10 percent of children and adults in the US have eczema. People with eczema may have red, itchy, raised patches of skin that can ooze and later crust over. The cause is unknown.

Past studies have found that eczema patients are often shorter than people without eczema. Drs. Silverberg and Paller wanted to test this finding. They looked at nine large studies involving 264,326 children and 83,511 adults in total. The patients self-reported whether they had eczema.

These researchers also looked at other factors that can affect growth, such as sleep, chronic inflammation (redness and swelling, which is a body’s response to fighting infection) or taking systemic corticosteroids. Systemic corticosteroids are medications that fight inflammation and are often prescribed for people with eczema to minimize their symptoms.

Drs. Silverberg and Paller found that, except for the one small group of 10- and 11-year-old children, children and adults with eczema were not shorter than others in the study.

“Future studies are warranted to better characterize sleep disturbances and other risk factors and mechanisms of growth impairment in eczema and to determine whether such impairment is reversible,” these researchers wrote.

This study was published Dec. 10 in JAMA Dermatology.

The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
December 9, 2014
Last Updated:
December 11, 2014