Allergies and atopic dermatitis are intimately related; in fact, the word “atopic” is really just another word for allergic. And, allergy simply means an abnormal immune response to a particular agent, usually causing inflammation, swelling, and itch (such as hives).
Eczema related allergies – to foods, things in the natural environment (such as pollen and dust mites), and chemicals of all sorts – are common in patients.
The immune system continues to be a very complex puzzle despite decades of work, and it is thought that for some, these allergies are a primary problem with the immune system that then causes the diseases such as asthma, hives, hay fever (allergic rhinitis), and eczema.
Recently, however, there is evidence that for some at least, the primary problem is in the skin barrier, causing “leaky skin” (and perhaps, “leaky lungs” and “leaky gut”). In this scenario, the barrier problem is leading to abnormal allergens getting through, and the immune system is simply doing its job by reacting to these allergens in the wrong place. This is exciting since it suggests that by treating the eczema, it may be possible to prevent allergies from developing, something that now affects an enormous number of people.
Much more work needs to be done on this issue, but in the meantime it is important to know that eczema and allergies have much in common and are often found going hand in hand.