New York: People suffering from the chronic itchy skin disease eczema have higher rates of smoking, drinking and obesity, and are less likely to exercise than adults who do not have the disease, scientists report.

These types of behaviour provide them with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well as diabetes, the team from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in the US said.

They also have higher rates of insomnia.

"This disease takes a huge emotional toll on its sufferers," said lead study author Jonathan Silverberg.

The study analyzed data for 27,157 and 34,525 adults aged 18 to 85 years from the 2010 and 2012 National Health Interview Survey respectively.

The study reported patients with eczema had 54 percent higher odds of being morbidly obese, 48 percent higher odds of hypertension, up to 93 percent higher odds of having pre-diabetes and up to 42 percent higher odds of having diabetes.

They also had 36 percent higher odds of high cholesterol.

Because eczema often starts in early childhood, people are affected through their developmental years and adolescence.

"It hurts their self-esteem and identity. That is part of why we see all these negative behaviour," Silverberg added.

Adding to eczema patients' health woes is difficulty in exercising because sweat and heat aggravate the itching.

"They will avoid anything that triggers the itch. Patients report their eczema flares during a workout," Silverberg said.

Dermatologists need to ask patients about their lifestyle habits such as smoking and physical activity so they can offer interventions, the authors said.

The study was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

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