Overview

Eczema, also known as “atopic dermatitis,” is often associated with food allergy; approximately 37 percent of young children with moderate to severe eczema also have food allergies. However, scientists are still investigating the exact nature of this relationship – do food allergies cause eczema or vice-versa?

Eczema is a non-contagious, inflammatory skin condition that is characterized by itching, redness, and scaly rashes. These symptoms can be painful, cause skin coloring changes, and blisters. Symptoms of eczema often appear on the arms, legs, hands, and face. The itch associated with eczema can be severe, often interrupting sleep. Scratching of the skin may lead to an infection. Infants who have eczema may rub against bedding or other things in an attempt to relieve the itch.

Eczema most commonly presents before the age of 5, but adolescents and adults can also develop this condition. About 60 percent of patients will experience symptoms of atopic dermatitis by age 1, and another 30 percent will experience symptoms by age 5. Children born into families that have a history of allergic diseases such as asthma or hay fever are at an increased risk for eczema developing.

Eczema is considered to be part of the “atopic march.” The atopic march involves the diagnosis of eczema, food allergy, allergic rhinitis, and asthma, typically in that sequential order.

There is documented association between food allergy and eczema among young children. It is recommended that children under the age of 5 who have moderate to severe eczema be evaluated for milk, egg, peanut, wheat, and soy allergies, if the child continues to have eczema even after treatment. Testing is also recommended when the child has a history of reaction after eating a specific food.4 An allergist can help identify which foods, if any, to eliminate from your child’s diet.

Scientistshave found that people who have Filaggrin deficiency (Filaggrin is a protein found in the outermost layer of the skin; some people have a gene mutation that causes Filaggrin deficiency) are at risk for developing atopic eczema – the presence of this gene defect is also believed to increase the risk of developing food allergy.

Children and adults diagnosed with eczema can manage this condition with the guidance of an allergist. In cases of moderate or severe eczema, an allergist may recommend prescription medication, including topical steroids and/or antihistamine. Milder cases may be treated with ointments and moisturizers. People with eczema should avoid harsh cleansers, drink water often, wear gloves in cold weather, and avoid wearing materials such as wool, which could irritate the skin.

Flare-ups of eczema can be caused by foods, cosmetics, soaps, wool, dust mites, mold, pollen, dog or cat dander, dry climate, and other variables.

Commonly Asked Questions:

Will the symptoms of eczema improve?

Eczema is a chronic condition, and the symptoms can come and go. The symptoms are treatable. Talk to your allergist about topical ointments or creams that can be applied to the skin. You can also help manage your eczema with regular moisturizing after baths and showers, avoiding things may that trigger a flare up (pollen or animal dander, for example), avoiding extremes in humidity levels, using non-perfumed soaps, and wearing loose-fitting, soft cotton clothing.

Is all eczema the same?

No. We have mainly discussed atopic dermatitis, also known as atopic eczema. Many other types of inflammatory skin conditions are also part of the eczema family. One such example is contact dermatitis, which is caused by direct contact with substances such as latex, detergents, perfumes, and a host of other allergens and substances to which an individual has developed sensitivities.

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