Conditions Related to Eczema

When two chronic diseases or illnesses exist in your body at the same time, they are called “comorbidities” or “related health conditions.” People with eczema, in particular atopic dermatitis, have several known comorbidities. 

Atopic dermatitis is part of a group of allergic conditions, known as the “atopic march”, that includes asthma, asthma, hay fever and food allergies. If a person has one of these conditions, the likelihood of developing another atopic condition is increased. Contact dermatitis is also considered atopic, although its connection to asthma and hay fever is unknown.

Asthma

About 20%  of adults with atopic dermatitis also have asthma, an allergic condition which causes a person’s airways to become inflamed, swollen and narrow. This narrowing makes it difficult to breathe, leading to tightness in the chest, coughing and wheezing. Asthma commonly first appears in childhood and can continue throughout a person’s lifetime. Some people with asthma only experience it from time to time, while others need ongoing treatment in order to keep it under control.

Allergic Rhinitis

Sometimes also called “hay fever,” allergic rhinitis is inflammation in the nose and sinuses caused by allergens like pollen, dust mites and pet dander. Symptoms for hay fever can include: 

  • an itchy nose, mouth, eyes or skin
  • a runny or stuffy nose 
  • sneezing
  • watery eyes
  • sore throat

Food Allergies

Up to 15% of children aged 3 to 18 months with atopic dermatitis have an allergy to one or more types of food. The most common food allergies in children are milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat and soy. Symptoms of food allergies typically appear within 30 minutes of eating or breathing in a food allergen and can include: 

  • itchy mouth and swelling of the lips
  • vomiting, diarrhea, painful stomach cramps
  • hives, rash or reddening of the skin
  • blood pressure drop

Infections

Due to problems with the skin barrier and an increase of bacteria on the skin, people with eczema are prone to skin infections from both bacteria and viruses, especially staph and herpes.
Symptoms of a skin infection include redness, skin that is warm/hot to the touch, pus-filled bumps (pustules), and cold sores or fever blisters. Consult with a healthcare provider if you suspect you or your child have a skin infection.

  • Eczema herpeticum affects people with atopic dermatitis and other inflammatory skin diseases. The eczema herpeticum infection can be very serious, especially when it spreads over wide areas of skin. Learn more about eczema herpeticum.
  • Staph infections. People with atopic dermatitis are more likely than the general population to have “colonized”  Staphylococcus aureus (also called “staph”) bacteria, leaving them more prone to staph infections.
    Common types of staph infections include: 

    • Furuncles, also known as boils, start in the hair follicle and are caused by both bacteria and fungi. Furuncles are usually red, warm and tender to the touch.
    • Impetigo is a common and highly-contagious kind of staph infection. It can occur in eczema-affected skin that’s open and “weepy.” If you have impetigo, honey-colored crusts may form on the open areas of your skin and can become painful and red. Impetigo is easily treated.
    • Cellulitis is a deep infection in the skin and is usually very painful and tender to the touch. In addition to redness, other cellulitis symptoms include swollen skin that is warm or hot to the touch. In severe cases, people with cellulitis develop a fever and elevated white blood cell count and may need to be hospitalized.

Mental Health Conditions

Research suggests that people with eczema, particularly atopic dermatitis, have higher rates of depression, anxiety and conduct disorders. Much remains unknown about the relationship between these conditions.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, if a person has experienced some of the following symptoms for two weeks or longer, they might have depression and should consult a healthcare provider:

  • feeling sad, empty and/or anxious
  • feeling hopeless
  • loss of interest in hobbies or other activities
  • decreased energy, feeling tired more often
  • difficulty concentrating
  • restlessness, unable to sit still
  • problems sleeping
  • weight change
  • thoughts of death or suicide

Other Related Conditions

Research shows that adults with atopic dermatitis may have a higher risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.