How Are Alcohol Use and Skin Problems Connected?

Alcohol use disorders were prevalent in patients with eczema and other skin disorders.

You’ve probably heard the expression “you are what you eat.” There may also be an association with what you drink.

person's elbow with psoriasis patch and dab of lotion
psoriasis patch on the elbow

Researchers from the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust in the United Kingdom found that patients with certain skin disorders such as psoriasis, eczema and inflammatory diseases were more likely to have alcohol use disorders.

Inflammatory skin disorders occur when the immune system attacks the body as if it were an invading substance. Several inflammatory conditions may cause skin rashes, and these conditions may also have other similar symptoms such as joint pain and fatigue.

Psoriasis, for example, typically affects the knees, elbows and scalp, causing red, raised scaly patches on the skin. Eczema results in an itchy red rash. Cutaneous lupus is less likely to cause itching, but results in thickened, red scaly patches that typically appear on the cheeks, nose and ears.

Dermatologist Kahdija Al-Jefri, MD, from the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust, led the study of 609 patients.

The researchers divided the patients into five groups: patients with psoriasis, patients with eczema, patients with cutaneous lupus, patients with other inflammatory disorders and patients with other kinds of skin lesions. Next, they looked at the prevalence of alcohol use disorders in each group.

Dr. Al-Jefri and colleagues found that 30.6 percent of patients with psoriasis had alcohol use disorders. The connection between alcohol use and psoriasis has been known for some time. However, 33.3 percent of the eczema group also had an alcohol use disorder, as did 12.3 percent of the cutaneous lupus group.

In the other inflammatory disease group, the prevalence of alcohol use disorder was 21.8 percent. In the non-inflammatory skin lesion group, 14.3 percent of the patients has an alcohol use disorder.

In comparison, the World Health Organization reports 5.9 percent of the population in the UK had an alcohol use disorder in 2010.

The findings should serve to heighten awareness of the need to screen patients with skin conditions for alcohol use disorders and offer treatment.

The study was published in the March issue of the British Journal of Dermatology.

Information on study funding and conflict of interest was not available.

Medical Express, “High prevalence of alcohol use disorders in eczema”

British Journal of Dermatology, “High prevalence of alcohol use disorders in patients with inflammatory skin diseases”

World Health Organization, “Alcohol Consumption: Use and Patterns”