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Study: Eczema Has Big Impact On Kids

Children with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis feel their life is bad in the same way as kids with diseases like epilepsy, kidney disease, and asthma, according to a new study.

Researchers found that children with eczema — and their parents — rated their quality of life as poorly as children with the other diseases did on topics like interference with school and play, loss of sleep, teasing, and bullying.

Eczema is a medical term for a group of skin conditions that result in inflammation and irritation of the skin.

Skin Conditions And Social Problems

Although eczema is not a life-threatening disease, researchers say the fact that it is more visible to others may make children with eczema and other skin conditions more vulnerable to social problems.

"Skin diseases are often more obvious to other children than chronic diseases such as asthma or diabetes and are more likely to lead to alienation, name-calling, teasing and bullying," says researcher Paula Beattie of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow, Scotland, in a news release. "Some skin conditions can also disturb children's sleep and cause lack of self-confidence, embarrassment, and poor self-esteem, especially as they get older."

"Although skin diseases may not shorten life in the same way as serious conditions like cystic fibrosis, they can cause children as much, if not more, distress in their everyday lives," says Beattie.

Skin Conditions Affect Quality Of Life

In the study, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, researchers surveyed 379 children ages 5 to 16 who had had chronic skin conditions like eczema, acne, and psoriasis for more than six months about how much the condition impaired their quality of life. They also surveyed the children's parents on the same issue.

The researchers then compared those quality-of-life ratings to ones given by the parents of 161 children in the same age group with chronic diseases, including cystic fibrosis, diabetes, kidney disease, and epilepsy.

The results showed that psoriasis — which results in red, scaly patches on the skin — and eczema were the skin conditions that caused the most distress, as reported by children. Following them were urticaria (hives) and acne.

In comparison, the parents of children with other chronic medical diseases reported a similar decrease in quality of life. Parents reported children with cerebral palsy had the biggest impairment at 38%. Children with kidney disease reported 33% impairment, which was the same level of impairment reported for children with the most common form of eczema known as atopic dermatitis. Urticaria and asthma scored at 28% and psoriasis at 27%.

Teasing A Major Concern

When the children were asked to name what impaired their quality of life most, itching and pain were the top concerns among those with eczema, urticaria, and psoriasis. Children with acne or warts said embarrassment was their biggest worry.

Teasing and bullying ranked third among parents and fourth among children with psoriasis and was also a major concern among children with other chronic diseases.

"Our study clearly shows the profound effect skin diseases can have on children's quality of life and we hope that our findings will raise awareness of the problems they face and encourage greater sensitivity towards them," says researcher Sue Lewis-Jones from Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, Scotland, in the release.

SOURCES: Beattie, P. British Journal of Dermatology, July 2006; Vol. 115: pp. 145-151. News release, British Journal of Dermatology.

By Jennifer Warner
Reviewed by Louise Chang, M.D.
© 2006, WebMD Inc. All rights reserved

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