Got Eczema? How About Health Care?

Eczema patients may have trouble finding and affording care

(RxWiki News) Eczema is a frustrating problem — it itches, and you don’t look your best in sleeveless tops. And you may have trouble getting access to health care.

A new study by Jonathan I. Silverberg, MD, PhD, found that adults with eczema were more likely to have difficulty finding medical care than those without eczema. Also, adults with eczema had higher out-of-pocket costs, more lost workdays and poorer overall health.

Adults with eczema had higher health care utilization and costs, which could be a major health burden, Dr. Silverberg found.

Coyle S. Connolly, DO, a board-certified dermatologist and and president of Connolly Dermatology, said poor health care access can pose a big problem for eczema patients.

“In my experience, the lack of patient health access increases the risk of eczema flares and additional complications such as infections,” Dr. Connolly told dailyRx News.

Dr. Connolly added, “Patients will often attempt to save money by trying over-the-counter [OTC] products or alternative therapies when they are unable to obtain a dermatological consultation. A dermatologist is trained to offer vital patient education, preventative strategies and powerful prescription products to help debilitating eczema flares. In most cases, OTC products alone are not adequate to control eczema flares. Rather, it is a combination of OTC (moisturizers, for example) and prescription products that offer the best chance for recovery.”

Dr. Silverberg, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, conducted this study by analyzing data on two large groups of people from past studies. Altogether, Dr. Silverberg’s study included data on more than 60,000 patients.

He found that adults with eczema had higher out-of-pocket costs than some patients with serious chronic diseases like hypertension (high blood pressure) or diabetes.

About 1 in 10 US adults has eczema, a chronic condition characterized by dry, itching skin that may also be red and flaky, Dr. Silverberg said.

Adults with eczema also lost more work compared to those without the disease. Altogether, Dr. Silverberg found that adults with eczema paid about $37.7 and $29.3 billion a year in out-of-pocket costs in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

Patients with eczema often had difficulty getting a medical appointment or had to wait long periods to see a doctor. They were also more likely to have delays in care because they could not afford medical care or medications.

Dr. Silverberg noted that in addition to needing care for their eczema, patients often had other medical problems like food allergies. Although he did not research that aspect, past research has tied childhood eczema to other issues like skin infections, dental problems and mental health problems.

Access to regular care is important, as treating an eczema flare is only part of the picture, Dr. Silverberg said. People with eczema also need ongoing care to manage their condition and help prevent flares or complications like skin infections.

This study was published March 4 in JAMA Dermatology.

A grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality funded this research. Dr. Silverberg did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 3, 2015