Recent studies showed that the onset of adult asthma is connected to childhood eczema. People with a history of childhood eczema have a higher chances of getting adult asthma.
Did you in your wildest dream ever think that the onset of asthma is linked to eczema. Sounds surprising? It will, because both these medical conditions are poles apart. Eczema makes the skin inflamed and itchy, while asthma is a breathing problem that is typically marked by inflammation of airways. Although both are a result of exposure to allergens, one cannot ignore the fact that eczema strikes the skin, while asthma affects the lungs. It is hard to believe but the truth is that various studies are convincingly pointing out to atopic dermatitis (type of eczema) as the main culprit behind asthma attacks.
Asthma and Eczema Relationship
Both human and animal studies hint that children catching eczema (atopic dermatitis) may fall prey to asthma in their adulthood. According to animal studies, the section of the skin affected with eczema produce a protein referred as thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP). Unfortunately, the protein (TSLP) does not remain confined to the superficial skin. It penetrates deeper into the skin and finally enters into the bloodstream. Circulation of blood allows the protein to come in contact with the lungs. When the lungs get exposed to TSLP, it triggers an inflammatory allergic response, leading to asthma. Of course, journey from secretion of the protein TSLP to its accessibility to lungs and the eventual asthmatic response takes years and does not occur within a day or two. Studies suggest that children diagnosed with atopic dermatitis may show asthma symptoms by the time they are nearing 50.
A recent report indicated that every 50 out of 100 children diagnosed with eczema eventually contract asthma. A study that started way back in 1968 and ended in 2004 also hinted that eczema at a very young age could prove to be a getaway for asthma. In this study, facts of over 1000 children (who were 7 years old) regarding their health were collected. Information about whether they had eczema and hay fever were noted down. The same subjects were again evaluated after 34 years to check for any medical conditions. The results that came out were startling. It showed that presently 30% cases of adult asthma may be due to eczema that was prevalent in childhood.
In yet another animal study, an environment was created so that mice with healthy skin secrete more TSLP protein in their body. The excess secretion of TSLP eventually caused manifestation of asthma like symptoms in mice. This study again showed that TSLP protein contributes in the development of asthma.
As aforementioned, animal studies do suggest that TSLP protein has a strong hand in triggering asthma symptoms but human studies are yet to confirm it. There is no evidence that proves that patients with atopic dermatitis have abnormally high TSLP levels. Doctors are also not sure whether TSLP in humans increases the chances of asthma attacks. The questions ‘are other proteins in humans also responsible for asthma development’ has also not been answered yet. Further studies are needed to clarify these doubts.
Is it possible to prevent the itchy eczema from progressing to full-blown asthma? Doctors believe that taking eczema medication at the earliest and stopping the secretion of protein is the key to prevent the onset of asthma later in life. However, medications are yet to be formulated to halt this forward march of eczema that ends with asthma. Nevertheless, early medical intervention to repair the damaged area may stop asthma from occurring. Studies also indicate that people with eczema tend to have a suppressed immune system, which puts them in the risk zone of asthma. So, strengthening the immune system by following a healthy diet may benefit in preventing asthma.
Diet can also play a critical role when it comes to managing eczema and asthma. Simply don’t depend on inhalers for asthma relief. Vegetables like onions, foods rich in vitamin C and E (vegetables and fruits) and seafood (fatty fish) provide anti-inflammatory effect and so their inclusion in the diet can certainly benefit to ease airway inflammation associated with asthma. Also, cook food in healthy oils such as olive oil, instead of corn and sunflower oil. As per the asthma treatment guidelines, the diet should primarily consists of vegetables and fruits and the focus should be less on meat. On the other hand, in case of atopic dermatitis, apart from taking the prescription ointment like anti-itch creams, one should avoid scratching the skin as it may aggravate eczema. Use of harsh skin care products and direct contact with woolen clothes also has to be avoided to manage the skin problem effectively. Eczema is chronic and so may take years to clear away completely. Drinking adequate water and following a healthy diet free from fried food will also help to heal eczema early.
A point to note here is that if a child is diagnosed with eczema (atopic dermatitis), it does not necessarily mean that he is bound to get asthma at some point of time. It only increases the risk of adult asthma to an extent. Further research is awaited that will give a conclusive evidence about the role of TSLP protein in triggering asthma in humans.