Published Feb 6, 2024

Is eczema an autoimmune disease?

Jake Bissaro
Written by
Jake Bissaro
Dr. Alison Gruen
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Alison Gruen
Pretty woman in her twenties washing face with soap in bathroom.
Published Feb 6, 2024

Key Points:

  1. Eczema is not an autoimmune disease. But an overactive immune system may play some part in irritating skin.
  2. The most common form of eczema is atopic dermatitis. It causes itchy, scaly patches of dry skin. Seborrheic dermatitis causes skin issues on the scalp (dandruff) or other specific body parts—and is not a type of eczema.
  3. Prescription treatment options include steroids and other medications that suppress the immune system. You can get effective eczema treatment online with a $15 consultation from Dr. B.

Eczema is a common skin condition that causes itchy, dry patches of skin. It affects as many as one in ten children globally.

Despite how many people struggle with this uncomfortable condition, scientists don’t know what causes it. It’s not an autoimmune disease. But its causes and risk factors may overlap with immune conditions. Genetics, certain irritants and environmental factors (like smoking) may also play a role.

Read on to explore the connection between eczema, autoimmune disease and other conditions like food allergies and environmental factors. Plus, how to get prescription eczema medicine through a convenient $15 online consultation.

What are the types of eczema?

Eczema affects people of all ages, but it’s most common in children. An estimated 50% of people with eczema develop symptoms before the age of one.

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is the most common form. But other forms are worth knowing about.

Types of eczema include:

  • Contact dermatitis happens when environmental irritants like detergent, soap or jewelry trigger skin issues. Things that trigger an allergic reaction like poison ivy or nail polish can cause contact dermatitis.
  • Dyshidrotic dermatitis creates small blisters on the soles of the feet or the palms of the hands.
  • Nummular dermatitis causes round spots to appear on the skin, especially the arms and legs.
  • Stasis dermatitis happens when poor lower leg circulation causes swelling, discolored skin or dryness around the ankles.

What are the common symptoms of eczema?

A range of possible symptoms can affect the whole body. The most common symptoms of eczema include:

  • Dry, itchy skin that can be severe
  • Inflamed skin
  • Scaly patches
  • Redness
  • Thickening of the skin

So, is eczema an autoimmune disease?

Eczema is not an autoimmune disease and its origin is unknown.

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system malfunctions and mistakenly attacks healthy cells, organs or tissues. Common autoimmune conditions include:

  • Skin conditions like psoriasis
  • Lupus
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

Researchers don’t fully understand the connection between the immune response and eczema. But growing evidence suggests a link between it and other autoimmune conditions. This especially includes conditions that affect the digestive system and skin like:

  • Inflammatory bowel conditions
  • Alopecia areata
  • Vitiligo

On the flip side, having dermatitis may increase your risk of developing an autoimmune condition.

Related conditions include:

  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis

What effective eczema treatment options exist?

There’s no cure for this itchy condition. But effective treatments can help relieve symptoms and prevent flares.

The most commonly prescribed treatments for moderate-to-severe eczema are topical corticosteroids—a type of anti-inflammatory medication.

Immune-suppressing medications also help reduce inflammation. Calcineurin inhibitors like Tacrolimus ointment (Protopic) and Elidel limit the reproduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Phosphodiesterase 4 inhibitors like Eucrisa reduce overactive phosphodiesterase-4 enzymes.

On top of getting the best medication for you, some lifestyle changes can improve symptoms.

  • Avoid triggers: Things that can cause allergies and make eczema flares worse include dust mites, pollen, smoke and pollution.
  • Hydrate your skin: Use moisturizer (especially after bathing) on the affected areas to improve skin barrier function and lock in moisture.

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Can you get prescription eczema treatment online?

Don’t let itchy, dry skin stand in your way. With Dr. B, you can get effective treatment with a hassle-free, $15 online consultation. We’ll connect you with a licensed provider. If appropriate, they’ll send a prescription to the pharmacy of your choice within three working hours.

Take the first step toward relief and get in touch with Dr.B today!

Sources:

De Lusignan, S., et al. (2022). Atopic dermatitis and risk of autoimmune conditions: population-based cohort study. Journal Of Allergy And Clinical Immunology.

Ivert, L.U., et al. (2021). Association between atopic dermatitis and autoimmune diseases: a population‐based case–control study. British Journal Of Dermatology.

Lee, J.H., et al. (2016). A comprehensive review of the treatment of atopic eczema. Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research.

Lio, P.A., et al. (2014). Clinical management of atopic dermatitis: practical highlights and updates from the atopic dermatitis practice parameter 2012. The Journal Of Allergy And Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

Myers, J.M.B., et al. (2010). Eczema in early life: genetics, the skin barrier, and lessons learned from birth cohort studies. The Journal Of Pediatrics.

National Eczema Association. (2023). 7 Types of Eczema.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (2022). Autoimmune Diseases.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (2017). Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) Treatment.

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. (2022). Atopic Dermatitis.

Pona, A., et al. (2019). Prescribing patterns for atopic dermatitis in the United States. Journal Of Drugs In Dermatology.

Schäfer, T., et al. (1997). Maternal smoking during pregnancy and lactation increases the risk for atopic eczema in the offspring. Journal Of The American Academy Of Dermatology.

Shaw, T.E., et al. (2011). Eczema prevalence in the United States: data from the 2003 national survey of children's health. Journal Of Investigative Dermatology.

Thomsen, S.F. (2014). Atopic dermatitis: natural history, diagnosis, and treatment. International Scholarly Research Notices.

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