Is there a link between cigarette smoke and Eczema?
There are usually no fence sitters when it comes to cigarette smoking. You either enjoy it as if it’s a six-course meal, or you abhor it and everything it stands for. Either way you feel about it, if you have eczema, then cigarette smoking should probably be on the top of your ‘things to not do’ list.
I have touched on this subject briefly in my article How to Party with Eczema, but I wanted to expand on that a little today because I don’t feel that this is a subject many people appreciate when it comes to the health of their skin and eczema.
CIGARETTE TOXINS AND ECZEMA
I’m sure the majority of us have had some form of exposure in our times, be that directly or indirectly, and have probably never considered whether it could have affected our skin. Like many things that can aggravate our eczema however, the products we willingly consume can often be a trigger.
Thankfully, it is now universally accepted that cigarette smoking is harmful to human health. The amount of scientific data backing this up is astronomical, and the information is easier to find than funny cat videos. But what are the actual links between smoking and eczema?
Each cigarette contains a potent cocktail of over 4000 chemicals, with many of those verified as harmful to the human body in different ways including a large amount being known to cause cancer and a range of other deadly diseases.
Between the tobacco itself, the paper, and the filter; the combined plethora of harmful toxins are inhaled into the lungs, and are thus distributed not only throughout the various areas of the user’s body, but also to people nearby as second-hand smoke.
While the list of these harmful poisons is long, the best known aggravators are:
Nicotine – A stimulant drug also used as a natural pesticide
Ammonia – A strong cleaning agent
Butane – Lighter fluid
Methanol – Rocket fuel
Tar – Used as a road cover
Formaldehyde – An industrial fungicide and used to make building materials
Arsenic – An extremely poisonous product used in industrial applications
Carbon monoxide – Car exhaust
Hydrogen cyanide – Used for fumigation
Cadmium – A heavy metal which is used in batteries
An evaluation was performed by the department of dermatology at the Northwest University Feinberg School of Medicine in 2015 who looked at the correlation between smoke exposure and atopic dermatitis (eczema). They combined various studies totaling 680,176 people over a period of 26 years.
Of those who were studied, almost ten percent of them were diagnosed with having atopic dermatitis, with the odds showing a higher chance of this skin condition in those who were not only actively smoking, but also those who were exposed to second-hand (passive) smoke.
Other studies have found that through smoking, DNA is actually mutated at an alarming rate, which is not only represent of the cancers that form due to smoking, but also other diseases that form in the body which could be the reason for the increased instances of atopic dermatitis.
* Atopic dermatitis is a systemic form of eczema which is caused by genetics and the subsequent dysfunctions of the body and immune system.
THE EFFECTS ON ECZEMA
With the large number of toxic chemicals in each puff and their detrimental effects on our health, it’s no wonder the cases of diseases including atopic dermatitis are higher among those exposed. But while the effect of much of these harmful components are not yet fully understood with regards to their influence on eczema, what we do know is still alarming and worth keeping far away from.
Nightshades and salicylates
The tobacco used in standard cigarettes is part of the nightshade family and also contains salicylates, so as such; those sensitive to nightshades or salicylates may find their smoking habits are also adding to this overload.
Slower healing and faster ageing
The impact of nicotine on skin health happens from the restriction of blood flow to the body due to the narrowing of veins and arteries. Not only is this dangerous for your overall health, but also for the healing ability of the skin which relies heavily upon blood and oxygen flow.
Restricting blood flow can slow down the healing ability of eczema, which can compound the problem for those with often open lesions and scratches. Though not only does this contribute to a reduction of skin healing times, but also to the increased aging and sagging of the skin.
Not so glamorous anymore, huh.
The American College of Chest Physicians study on the connection between smoking and sleeping patterns found that smokers are four times more likely to suffer from poor sleep than those who do not, as well as a general feeling of unrest after sleep on account of less time spent in deep sleep.
The reason for this is said to be potentially due to the stimulating nature of nicotine which can stave off your glorious slumber, and also because of its addictiveness that when combined with the long period of rest, can send the sleeper into a withdrawal throughout the night.
Sleep as we know is also very crucial to skin healing and repair, as mentioned in my article 11 Hacks to a better sleep with Eczema and Topical Steroid Withdrawal. So when the skin is already at a deficit from the lack of blood and oxygen supply to the skin, then missing out on proper deep sleep can exacerbate this even further.
SECOND-HAND SMOKE AND ECZEMA
There’s a reason smoking has been banned in most closed-in public areas across the world, and that is because second-hand smoke has been proven to be detrimental to the health of those in the vicinity who are unlucky enough to inhale it. This is simply because it is still choc-full of nicotine and harmful poisons.
So, if you have eczema and are exposed to this type of environment, your eczema symptoms are also at risk.
ARE E-CIGARETTES / VAPORISERS SAFE FOR ECZEMA?
While they have dramatically less toxins than traditional cigarettes, they still contain nicotine (though not always) which carries with them all the same dangers of nicotine.
As for second-hand ‘smoke’, while their vapour is not the same as cigarette smoke and contains very little at all, there are still some sources which suggest there is an amount of nicotine and other chemicals delivered into the air.
For these reasons, vaping may still not be safe for those suffering from eczema.
There is still a lot of research needed on the correlation between eczema and cigarette smoke, however I really do feel that the information we have thus far is enough to make an informed decision to eliminate this substance from our lives.
Eczema is hard enough to live with, so why risk making it any harder. For those who are currently smoking and wish to improve their health by quitting, there are many options available from nicotine patches, nicotine gum, and lozenges as well as local support groups. Health awaits you!