Some Hypertension Drugs May Increase Risk of Eczema in Older Patients, Study Warns

The findings add to growing concerns over the widespread use of hypertension drugs, since the threshold for what counts as high blood pressure was lowered in 2017.

The findings of a new study suggest that side effects of medications used to treat high blood pressure may increase the likelihood of developing eczema, leading researchers to recommend doctors consider the impact of antihypertensive drugs when older patients present with the symptoms of the common, but irritating, skin condition.

Eczema can cause chronic problems like dry, itchy, and flaky skin. People with eczema often try over-the-counter remedies, but those don’t always effectively treat the condition.

In recent years, the rates of new eczema diagnoses have been increasing, but prior research has failed to figure out why. However, this new research suggests that greater use of antihypertension drugs since the threshold for diagnosing high blood pressure was lowered in 2017 may be a contributing factor.

In a study published last month in the medical journal JAMA Dermatology, researchers with University of California, San Francisco found that individuals taking high blood pressure drugs like Diurnal and Norvasc faced a 29% increased risk of developing eczema, leading to calls for additional research to be conducted to better understand the mechanisms underlying the association.

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“Rates of physician-diagnosed eczema have been increasing among older adults, but little is known regarding the pathopsyiologic processes and best treatments for this subgroup,” said lead researcher Morgan Ye, MPH, with the Divison of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco in the report. “Preliminary data suggest that medications – antihypertnesive medications in particular – may contribute to eczematous dematitis; however, there are limited population-based data on the proportion of eczematous dermatitis diagnoses among older adults that may be attributed to antihypertensive drugs.”

The study analyzed data from more than 1.5 million adults over the age of 60, participating in the Health Improvement Network and treated at primary care doctor’s offices in the United Kingdom from 1994 to 2014. Patients did not have eczema at the start of the study.

Overall, eczema diagnosis rates were higher among people who took hypertension drugs compared to those who didn’t. Among those taking hypertension drugs, the risk was 12 people per 1,000 person-years compared to 9 people per 1,000 person-years among those not taking drugs to treat high blood pressure. However, the data indicated there was a higher risk of eczema for some blood pressure drugs and a lower risk for others.

For example, the risk of eczema was 16% higher for thiazide diuretic drugs like Lozol and Bumex. For calcium channel blockers, the increased risk of getting eczema was 24% higher.

However, the risk was much lower for other hypertension drugs. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, like Vasotec and Lotensin, carried only a 2% increased risk of eczema, and beta blockers, like Lopressor and Metoprolol, had only a 4% increased risk.

Diuretics are medications that help reduce fluid buildup by removing salt and water from the body through the urine. This can help lower blood pressure by reducing the amount of blood flowing through the arteries. Calcium channel blockers are a type of medication that limits the way the body’s cells use calcium, which helps to lower blood pressure.

ACE inhibitors help relax the blood vessels and arteries to help lower blood pressure. Beta blockers are a class of drugs typically given to patients to treat abnormal heart rhythms and prevent another heart attack after the first. Beta blockers work by causing the heart to beat with less force.

Other Hypertension Drug Concerns

Prior research has linked blood pressure drugs to other side effects. A study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded hypertension drugs increase a patient’s risk of falls, especially among those who are over the age of 65. And an increased risk of fall among older people can lead to a number of other serious side effects, such as bone fractures and concussions.

The risk blood pressure drugs pose may be even greater since prescribing guidelines for blood pressure drugs were changed by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology. The threshold for what is considered high blood pressure was lowered in 2017, which may have resulted in millions more Americans being prescribed blood pressure drugs.

In this latest study, Ye and other researchers concluded that it is important for doctors to weigh the risks of putting patients on blood pressure medications and of switching them from one drug to another if a patient experiences side effects, like eczema. It is also important to consider blood pressure drugs prescriptions when an older patient is suffering from eczema to narrow down contributing factors.

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