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What is Eczema? An Information Guide to This Health Condition

Editor's Note

The Mighty’s educational content combines the expertise of both the medical and patient community to support you and your loved ones through your health journeys. For this condition guide, we connected with two eczema experts, read the latest studies, and surveyed more than 40 people living with eczema and their caregivers.

Eczema at a Glance:

  • Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory condition that primarily affects the skin, causing severe itching, dryness, sensitivity, flushing, rashes, scaling or rough patches, and sores that can leak fluid.1
  • Up to 10% of people globally experience eczema symptoms at some point in their lives.2 However, there are likely more cases that go undiagnosed because eczema can mimic other conditions like contact dermatitis and cradle cap in young children. 
  • There are many options for eczema management, including medications, lifestyle changes and skin support strategies, but treatment often requires trial and error to find the most relief. 

Medically reviewed by Dr. Chris Sayed, M.D. 

What Is Eczema? | What Causes Eczema? | How to Manage Eczema | How To Find a Health Care Provider for Eczema | Mental Health and Eczema| How To Talk To Others About Eczema | How To Support Someone With Eczema

What Is Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)?

You might ask, “What is eczema, really?” Well, it’s more than just an occasional rash or dry skin. Eczema is the common name for atopic dermatitis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the skin. You may have heard other disease names that are similar, such as seborrheic dermatitis (“dandruff”) and contact dermatitis (“allergy on the skin”). We’ll go over the similarities and differences in this condition guide. Understanding how eczema can affect the body will involve learning a little bit more about the immune system, and may require some new vocabulary. Before we dive deeper, here are a few key terms you should be familiar with:

  • Atopy: the genetic tendency of a person to develop allergic conditions 
  • Dermatitis: inflammation of the skin 
  • Filaggrin: protein in the skin that helps keep the skin barrier healthy
  • Inflammation: Redness and swelling that happens when your immune system detects a perceived threat to the body (like bacteria or a virus), and responds by sending chemicals and cells to that area of the body. 
  • Cytokines: inflammatory chemical messengers

How Common is Eczema?

Eczema is the most common chronic skin condition in children. It typically begins before the age of two.3 In 2019, nearly 11% of children in the U.S. were diagnosed with eczema, but in some countries, it affects up to 20% of children.4,5 It’s more common in African Americans; women also have an increased risk.4,6 The good news is that the risk for eczema decreases with age. About 3% of the world’s adult population is affected.7

How Is Eczema Diagnosed?

Eczema is diagnosed through a physical examination and study of a patient’s medical history.8 Unfortunately, there is no definitive test. Your doctor may suggest biopsies or other laboratory tests to rule out other conditions. 

What Are the Symptoms of Eczema?

If you live with eczema or suspect an eczema diagnosis, you may experience the following symptoms:9

  • Itchy skin (also known as pruritus)
  • Dry or crusty skin
  • Pus or oozing from affected areas
  • Scaly looking skin that often occurs in patches
  • Red, inflamed or irritated looking skin 
  • Swollen skin 
  • Painful skin 
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Anxiety and/or depression 

Although eczema is a common skin condition, it can be misdiagnosed because it often mimics other conditions, especially in young children.10 Misdiagnoses can include:

  • Seborrheic dermatitis (“dandruff”) or cradle cap in young children
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Psoriasis
  • Other skin conditions/diseases like scabies and ringworm
  • Some rare forms of cancer 

Eczema is often a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that your doctors might test you for other conditions, or try treatments for other conditions, before arriving at a final diagnosis. Before settling on a final diagnosis, your doctor may try:

  • Using antihistamines to see if eczema symptoms resolve or improve. If they resolve, you probably have contact dermatitis, not eczema. If they improve, but don’t completely go away, an allergy is probably the root cause.
  • Using antibiotics or other medications to clear skin infections like scabies.

If you’re feeling frustrated and overwhelmed in your diagnosis journey, know that you’re not alone. Finding the right diagnosis can be tricky sometimes. But with the right care team, a little trial and error, and some patience, you’ll be on your way to a diagnosis in no time. 

What Causes Eczema?

A common question asked by many is, ‘Is eczema an autoimmune disease?’ The answer is somewhat complex, as while it involves the immune system, it’s primarily considered a chronic inflammatory skin condition.

The skin is our largest organ. It protects us from bacteria, viruses, and the environment. At first glance, the skin may appear simple, but it’s actually quite complex, made of three different layers with different functions. The top layer of the skin is called the epidermis. It contains several types of cells besides skin cells. Some produce melanin, which gives our skin its color and protects us from sunlight. Other cells signal the immune system when an invader shows up. The visible top layer is made of dead skin cells, which form a protective skin barrier. They’re constantly being shed and replaced by cells growing from below. 

The second layer is the dermis, which contains hair follicles, sweat and oil glands, blood vessels, and nerve endings that sense the outside world. The hypodermis is the deepest layer. It contains nerve roots, bigger blood vessels, and fat cells.

Immune cells can move through all of these layers when the body senses invaders. In people living with eczema, the outermost skin barrier is damaged and turns the immune system on hyperdrive. 

This guide focuses on the relationship between the skin and immune system. It’s important to know that there is no “one” cause for eczema; multiple factors can come into play, and scientists are still trying to understand them all. Some potential causes or exacerbating factors for eczema include:

  • Not having enough filaggrin, a protein important for maintaining the structure of your skin
  • Bacterial overgrowth or not having the right amounts of “good” bacteria in your body
  • Exposure to environmental irritants, such as pollution or pollen
  • Having other allergic or inflammatory conditions, like asthma or a food allergy

Types of Eczema

Eczema can present itself in various forms, each with their own unique set of symptoms, causes, and treatments. Here’s a brief overview of the most common types of eczema:

1. Atopic Dermatitis: This is the most common form of eczema. Characterized by red, itchy, and inflamed skin, it often starts in childhood, usually in infancy.

2. Contact Dermatitis: This form occurs when the skin comes into contact with an allergen or some other irritation, causing red, itchy, and irritated skin.

3. Dyshidrotic Eczema: This type often leads to small, itchy blisters on the hands and feet, and can express itself during eczema flare-ups.

4. Nummular Eczema: Known also as discoid eczema, it appears as round, coin-shaped spots on the skin and can be particularly itchy.

5. Seborrheic Dermatitis: Common in infants and adults older than 30. This type of eczema frequently affects the scalp and face. This type can sometimes manifest as eczema around eyes.

6. Stasis Dermatitis: This is a common type of eczema on legs and is typically due to problems with blood flow.

Does Filaggrin Deficiency Cause Eczema?

Filaggrin is critical to your skin’s health. It strengthens the outermost skin cells to form a strong barrier, helps keep moisture in the skin, and maintains proper acidity levels (pH).

Many people who live with eczema don’t make enough filaggrin. Most filaggrin deficiencies are genetic, meaning that individuals are born without the ability to make this protein.3,11 These people are more likely to develop eczema. However, researchers have also discovered that normal filaggrin genes can be “shut off.” The cause? An increase in cytokines, the chemical messengers that direct immune cells to areas where the body is damaged or in danger from invading microorganisms.12

Does Bacterial Dysbiosis Cause Eczema?

Your body is filled with billions of bacteria. You might be thinking, “That’s so gross!” but the presence of bacteria in your body is not always a bad thing! In fact, bacteria play an important role in keeping you healthy. Our bodies contain both helpful “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria that can cause illness. Usually, they keep each other in balance. But sometimes, you don’t have enough good bacteria, or you might have an overgrowth of bad bacteria. This imbalance is called dysbiosis.

You may have heard about the gut microbiome – the large, complicated community of bacteria living in your stomach and intestines. Maybe you have taken a probiotic or two to help with some stomach troubles in the past. But did you know that your skin has its own microbiome? Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus for short) is a normal resident of this community, but scientists have found that 70% of people with eczema have an overgrowth of S. aureus.

Normally, S. aureus isn’t harmful. In fact, 30% of people have S. aureus growing in their nose and on their skin. But remember: People living with eczema have a damaged skin barrier. This makes it easier for bacteria to enter the deeper layers of the skin. When a damaged skin barrier allows S. aureus to enter too deeply, the skin can become even more sensitive and irritated. It’s important to note that antibiotic treatment alone won’t cure eczema, but it can help reduce its severity.

But before you frantically apply antibiotics to your skin or try to wash away the bad bacteria, talk to your doctor. Healthy skin has a balanced microbiome, and many strategies that reduce bad bacteria on the skin get rid of the good bacteria too. 

What Environmental Triggers Can Worsen Eczema Symptoms?

Eczema can be triggered by many different irritants and pollutants. Some common environmental triggers include:13

  • High heat or sweat
  • Pollen 
  • Hard water 
  • Fabric softeners and scented detergents
  • Fragrances
  • Rough fabrics 
  • Cigarette smoke 
  • Animal dander

In a recent survey of the eczema community on The Mighty, 29% of people reported animal dander as a trigger and 41% reported fragrance or scented products. Environmental triggers are different for everyone. In some situations, they are unavoidable. However, working with your doctor to minimize exposure to known triggers can help reduce eczema symptoms. 

Does Inflammation Cause Eczema? 

Eczema and inflammation are as linked as the chicken and the egg: Which comes first? Does underlying inflammation cause eczema? Or is eczema itself causing the inflammation? Scientists are still trying to answer this question. However, the end result is a damaged skin barrier that allows allergens, irritants, pollutants, and pathogens to enter the body more easily. Your immune system recognizes these things as invaders. In response, it turns up inflammation, making symptoms worse. Reducing overall levels of inflammation in the body is a good strategy for anyone living with eczema. Eating healthy, exercising, getting good sleep, and reducing stress are all ways to help reduce inflammation on your own. If you live with other inflammatory conditions, better management of those conditions may also improve your eczema. 

What Conditions Can Occur Together With Eczema? 

Eczema often occurs along with other atopic, or allergic, conditions like asthma, food allergies, and nasal allergies. These happen when your skin and mucous membranes (the tissues that line your nose, mouth, and stomach) are overly sensitive to allergic triggers. Symptoms might include rashes on your skin from eczema, tightening in your chest from asthma, an upset stomach from a food allergy, and sneezing or a runny nose from pollen. If you have moderate to severe eczema, you are more likely to have one of these other atopic conditions. Children are sometimes diagnosed with eczema before they are diagnosed with nasal allergies. After they are diagnosed with nasal allergies, sometimes they go on to develop asthma. This progression from eczema to allergies to asthma is called the “atopic march.” 

How to Manage Eczema

Finding a treatment regimen that works for eczema can be difficult because each person experiences the condition differently. Treatments will be individualized, especially if your eczema is more severe. You may be asking yourself:

  • Is there a cure for eczema?
  • What are the treatment options for eczema?
  • How quickly can I find relief for my eczema symptoms?

Eczema is a chronic condition that can have periods of worsening symptoms, called flares. Flares can sometimes improve on their own and can be followed by a period with few symptoms, called remission. However, some individuals need medical treatment to get relief.

The goal of eczema management is to reduce the severity of your symptoms or to prevent them from worsening. In some cases, treatment can prevent eczema symptoms from coming back at all. That’s why it’s important to work with your healthcare team not only when you’re experiencing a flare, but also when you’re feeling better. Once the eczema flare is under control, the condition can also be managed preventatively with certain medications or self-care.

Although there is currently no cure for eczema, there are many different strategies and treatment options to explore with your healthcare team. Some of these options may include lifestyle changes, self-care, and medications.  

What Are Some Lifestyle Changes That Can Help With Eczema?

Eczema and inflammation are closely linked. That’s why it’s important to reduce inflammation overall to best support your body. To help reduce inflammation naturally:

  • Avoid known triggers, such as animal dander, scents/fragrances, and food allergies or sensitivities
  • Eat a nutritious, low-inflammatory diet14
  • Practice good sleep habits
  • Reduce stress
  • Stop smoking

Some of these changes might be tough, but they can make a big difference in your eczema symptoms. For example, if you know you’re allergic to dogs, try to avoid direct contact with them. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, especially if you have a pet dog yourself. When you can’t fully remove a known trigger, try and reduce exposure as much as possible: vacuum more often and have your dog sleep in a different room. 

Joanna, blogger of S.KINFLUENCE, shared her experience with implementing these lifestyle changes to help her eczema:

“Exercising daily, having an exercise regimen, and having a well-balanced diet in place, changed my mindset from feeling low and almost defeated by the condition to almost being on top of it. It didn’t change my skin immediately, but my mindset changed. I think that’s what really helped me move forward.”

What Are Some Home Remedies That Can Reduce Eczema Symptoms?

There are many strategies you can use at home to help with your eczema symptoms. Your doctor may write extensive moisturization as your first “prescription.” That’s because individuals with eczema have a damaged skin barrier that is often dry and irritated. 

Because eczema makes your skin more sensitive, it may take some trial and error to find a moisturizer that works best for you. We’ve created these recipe cards to help you find some skin-soothing moisturization to help ease symptoms. 

An oatmeal bath is a common home remedy for people living with eczema, especially young children. You can add other ingredients to your bath, such as essential oils or a little bit of baking soda. 

The great thing about this homemade lotion is that you can control all of the ingredients and make substitutions or additions to best fit your needs. If you’re allergic or sensitive to latex, try the recipe without the shea butter; it can have a latex-like protein in it. Coconut oil may be a good substitute! 

If you’re not too keen on making your own lotion, there are many different creams to try without a prescription. There are even soaps and shampoos available that may help reduce symptoms at home. Some contain colloidal oatmeal or ceramides, which are a kind of fat that can help repair the skin barrier and improve eczema symptoms. 

What Medications Are Used to Treat Eczema? 

Medications for eczema target inflammation and bacterial infections if they are present. Some medication types include steroids, antibiotics (if you have an infection), immunosuppressants, and biologics. Topicals are medications applied to the skin. The others are medications taken by mouth.

  • Topical corticosteroids, or steroid cream, is usually the first medicine prescribed for eczema treatment. It also helps moderate the severity of flares when symptoms begin to act up. Steroids work by calming down the immune system and are a safe, easy option for individuals living with eczema. Sometimes people worry that their bodies will absorb unsafe amounts of corticosteroid from these creams. One study found that patients with eczema were most concerned about these treatments thinning their skin or being absorbed into their bodies and causing other health issues. However, these side effects occur very rarely in patients who use these treatments as their healthcare provider prescribes. 
  • Topical calcineurin inhibitors don’t contain corticosteroids. They work by preventing some parts of the immune system from activating and making your symptoms worse.
  • Topical Phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) inhibitors target certain parts of your body that make the inflammatory chemicals, cytokines. 
  • Antibiotics can be used to reduce the severity of eczema symptoms if you have an active infection.15 In individuals with eczema, the skin is damaged, making it easier to become infected. Some people also might have bacterial overgrowth on the skin, which can make their symptoms worse. 
  • Immunosuppressants work by helping to control or “turn down” the immune system. There are many different types of immunosuppressants available, including medications you can apply to your skin, pills, and injections. 
    • Biologics are a special type of immunosuppressant used in moderate to severe eczema, often after other treatments fail to provide enough relief. Biologics are complex medications that block certain cytokines, or chemical messengers, that produce inflammation in the skin. Biologics are an effective treatment option for eczema because of how well they can help reduce inflammation.16 

Talking with your healthcare team is important, not only in reducing your eczema symptoms, but also in helping to prevent your eczema from getting worse. A good team can create a toolbox of resources and interventions that yield the best outcome for your eczema. 

What Is Phototherapy for Eczema?

Phototherapy, or light therapy, is a special form of treatment for eczema that may be tried if medications don’t provide enough relief. Phototherapy uses ultraviolet (UV) light, and is not the same as a tanning bed or going out into the sun for long periods of time.17 Scientists are still trying to figure out how exactly phototherapy helps eczema, but they do know that this type of light therapy on the skin can reduce inflammation. Phototherapy is not an instant fix, and it usually improves eczema symptoms gradually over several sessions.18 Phototherapy can also reduce the chance of a flare once your eczema is under control with medications.

Common Misconceptions About Eczema

Correcting misconceptions about eczema can help people manage their symptoms.19 So, what are some common misunderstandings? 

Eczema is simple to “fix”

Eczema isn’t always easy to treat. That’s because it’s a chronic, long-term condition that can be managed but not cured. The best way to keep symptoms controlled is to find a treatment regimen that works and stick to it. And sometimes, it can take some trial and error to find the best regimen for you. 

There is a one-size-fits-all treatment for eczema

Just as everyone’s eczema is different, so is everyone’s treatment plan.  If you’ve read of one management strategy that helped someone else, but it hasn’t helped you, don’t lose hope!  

Eczema advocate Joanna shared what helped her in her own journey: 

“Rather than looking at the condition that my skin was in at that very moment, I just kept thinking towards the one day that this is going to be better and that’s what helped me to get through each day. Eczema is not ‘just’ a dry skin condition, it’s a complex condition that needs a lot of attention.”


Eczema is contagious

People often have the misconception that eczema is a contagious condition. Eczema is not contagious, and this misconception can have a negative effect on the social and dating life of someone living with the condition. 

Eczema and Psoriasis are the same

It’s a common misconception that psoriasis and eczema are the same condition. While both are chronic skin disorders that cause itching and redness, there is a distinct difference between eczema and psoriasis.

When considering “psoriasis vs eczema,” it’s important to know that psoriasis is characterized by an overactive immune system that speeds up the life cycle of skin cells, causing them to build up rapidly on the skin’s surface.

When asking, “eczema or psoriasis,” the appearance of the rash can often be a clue. Eczema rashes are usually accompanied by extreme dryness and may form small, raised bumps that ooze if you scratch them. Psoriasis, however, presents as thicker, red patches of skin covered by silvery scales.

How to Build a Healthcare Team for Eczema

The first step toward managing your eczema is building a healthcare team best-suited to your individual needs. Eczema can range from mild to severe, with symptoms that significantly impact a person’s quality of life. Since there’s no cure for eczema and management is usually long-term, it’s important to build a healthcare team you trust and can work with.

You may be frustrated about trying to find a healthcare provider for your eczema. Don’t worry – you’re not alone. Locating the right support for any chronic condition can take time and a little bit of trial and error. A good team can help you manage both the physical and emotional sides of living with eczema.

In the beginning, it may only be just you and your primary care physician. A primary care doctor can usually manage mild or moderate eczema and will know if you need specialist care. 

These healthcare professionals can help manage eczema:

  • Primary care physician (PCP) or pediatrician
  • Dermatologist
  • Allergist or immunologist
  • Nutritionist or dietician
  • Mental health professional 

It may seem like a long, winding journey to finding the best team for you, but know that it’s worth it. 

Talking to Your Healthcare Provider About Eczema

Talking to a healthcare provider about your eczema symptoms can be nerve-wracking. Whether you’re doing so for the first time or the 100th time, we’re proud of you for taking steps to take care of yourself. 

Some questions you may want to consider before going to visit your doctor include:

  • How are you sleeping? Are you up all night itching? Are you able to focus throughout the day? 
  • How is your mental health and body image? Are you enjoying the things you usually do? Do you feel comfortable with yourself?
  • How are your relationships? Do they feel strained because of your eczema symptoms?
  • Are you able to participate in hobbies you enjoy? Do some of your passions cause flare-ups? 

There is so much more to eczema than people think. Even healthcare professionals may not fully understand the extent to which the condition impacts your life. That’s why it’s so important to be open and honest about how you’re feeling and the symptoms you’re experiencing, even if they’re embarrassing. You deserve to be heard. Being vulnerable about what you’re going through is possibly one of the bravest things you can do.

To help organize your thoughts and navigate your next visit with a healthcare professional, we created a downloadable discussion guide. We hope this guide helps you get the most out of your appointments.

Eczema is a relapsing and remitting chronic illness, meaning that the severity of your symptoms can fluctuate. Your doctor may recommend recording your eczema symptoms to help you decide on the next steps in your treatment journey. Keeping track of symptoms can feel overwhelming at times without an organized system in place. The Mighty’s eczema symptom tracker can help get you started.

You can also find other resources here:

  • Mental Health and Eczema

    An often-overlooked aspect of living with a chronic illness is the potential mental health impact.20,21 Eczema is a very “visible” disease, and treatment focuses on the physical symptoms of the condition. But people living with eczema also experience anxiety and depression. Talking openly about how it affects your mental health can be just as important as discussing physical symptoms. That’s why we’ve dedicated a section of this condition guide to mental health and eczema. 

    Recent studies suggest people who live with eczema are more likely to also be diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression. According to one study, patients with more severe eczema were more likely to experience suicidal ideation.22 In a recent survey, 60% of Mighty members living with eczema have experienced anxiety around their condition, and 52% have experienced depression. Doctors are still trying to piece together how eczema impacts mental health: Are the mental health consequences mostly due to dealing with the symptoms of the disease? Are the social consequences of having eczema partially to blame? Or does the inflammation associated with eczema impact the brain and cause depression and anxiety this way? 

    If you are struggling with your mental health due to eczema or don’t feel like you were adequately educated about the effects eczema could have on your mental health, know that you are not alone. In the story What Doctors Don’t Tell You About Eczema, one Mighty member had this to say about how eczema affects mental health: 

    “I wish doctors had told me about the mental health aspect of having a chronic illness and in particular, a skin disorder. Perhaps I would have been able to make more sense of how I was feeling then and not feel so lonely. I wish I had been given some context for my medical condition, for example [telling me] it’s common, so I didn’t feel so alone.”

    It’s just as important to take care of your mental health as it is to take care of your physical symptoms. There is so much more to eczema than you can see on the outside. Joanna, eczema advocate from S.KINFLUENCE, shared her thoughts:

    “Sometimes we focus so much on the external we’re not dealing with like internal, like, emotional issues, and I feel like sometimes it is that that causes a lot of problems.”

    Sometimes turmoil on the inside affects how things are going on the outside. Joanna explained how getting therapy impacted her:

    “As I started to talk more in therapy about the things that I had gone through in my past, and what I was experiencing in my present, I found that within a couple of weeks or months, the last bits of eczema that just would not go away completely disappeared.”

    If you’re looking for a place to connect about eczema, you can check out The Mighty’s eczema topic page and post “Thoughts and Questions” for community support. You can also read these stories from Mighties who have been there:

    How to Get Help in a Crisis

    If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, know you are not alone — and there is help for people who feel suicidal. If you need help right now, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world, and visit our suicide prevention resources here.

    How to Talk to Others About Eczema

    It can be tough to talk about your eczema and what it’s like to live with it. Since people view eczema as a skin disease, they may not understand how profoundly it impacts your daily life and mental health. 

    While talking about difficult things can be draining (you’re doing great, by the way), we hope you can find someone to listen deeply to your needs and experiences — whether it’s your doctor, someone in your family, or a partner. If you need a place to turn, our Mighty community is always here for you.

    Talking to Friends and Family About Eczema

    You’ve probably received a concerned look or two around your eczema. It’s a condition that can mimic many others, and some people fear that it’s contagious. In a recent survey, 75% of Mighty members with eczema or their caregivers wanted others to know that eczema is not contagious. 

    One Mighty member shared this experience:

    “I wish people knew what it was and that it’s not contagious. I used to work in retail and would have dozens of customers asking me if I had poison ivy. I had people who wanted a different cashier because they thought I was contagious … lots of unhelpful, unprompted medical advice. It’s coming from a good place, but it’s not like I haven’t tried everything I can.”

    Open communication with family and friends will help them understand your experience. You can help them understand how much eczema affects your quality of life and mental health. For example, they may see flaky, dry skin but not understand that the itching prevents you from sleeping through the night, or how it creates anxiety about your appearance

    That’s why we created this worksheet to help you confidently talk about your unique journey with eczema. Feel free to doodle, jot down notes, and use it in conversations with family, friends, loved ones, colleagues, and others in your community. 

    Dating With Eczema

    Intimacy with eczema can be difficult. You may become hyper-aware of flakes shedding from your skin, or conscious of how often you’re scratching. Dating can be stressful, and you may be worried about what a partner will think about your eczema. Will they think it’s “gross?” Will you still feel sexy around your partner during a flare? Eczema commonly occurs for the first time when you’re a kid, so you may be terrified of navigating the dating world for the first time while also dealing with eczema. 

    To get insight into how others have navigated intimacy with a skin condition, we interviewed Mighty contributor Kashinda on dating with eczema. She noted that speaking about eczema can be difficult with a partner. That’s why she usually shares this statement with someone she’d date while having a chronic skin condition: 

    “I will focus on loving the skin I’m in and getting to know you as a person first. You can focus on getting to know me as a person first, and together we will learn how to enjoy one another while respecting my chronic skin condition.”

    Talking about embarrassing symptoms and what works best for you can be challenging, but remember this: Your loved ones care about you. It may be hard to “break the ice” about eczema at first, but they can become your biggest ally and advocate. 

    How to Support Someone Living With Eczema

    It can be challenging to support someone with a condition that seems “mild” or “common,” but can have a huge unseen impact. So here’s a reminder you may need today: The journey and the willingness to understand are what matters most. You don’t have to know all the tiny details about a condition to be part of someone’s support system. 

    Being supportive starts with transparent communication, having an open mind and being present. Just because a person may seem “strong” on the outside, doesn’t mean that they don’t need support, especially when in a flare up. Eczema advocate Joanna shares her experience:

    “Remember that when in a flare or learning to navigate eczema your family member may be very sensitive. Words of affirmation and acts of service can make a world of difference to them especially when they don’t feel 100% themselves.”

    Eczema can make people exhausted from a lack of sleep. You can help by offering to run by the store, cleaning the house, or staying in one weekend during a flare instead of pressuring your friend or family member into something more energy-intensive. It might even be something simple, like watching a TV show together. If you’re unsure how to help, just ask! Your loved one likely has so many things on their plate that need attention, but symptoms make it tough to finish it all.

    Sometimes, being supportive may have to look a little bit different. Here’s what Joanna had to say:

    “When life with eczema becomes overwhelming, your loved who is struggling may sometimes push you away. Even if space is created make time for them in other ways so they know you’re still there.”

    To learn more about the experiences of others living with eczema and how to support them, check out these Mighty stories:

    This condition guide was created with support from many Mighty contributors and medical experts. You can learn more about the individuals interviewed for the creation of this resource here:

    • Chris Sayed, M.D.
    • Peter Lio, M.D. 
    • Howard Chang, Mighty contributor
    • Kashinda Marche, Mighty contributor
    • Joanna Rose-hazel, Eczema advocate
    • Kat Harrison, Mighty staff member

    And to the 42 Mighties who took our eczema survey: thank you!

    1,2 N;, F. W. B. (n.d.). Atopic dermatitis: Diagnosis and treatment. American family physician. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from
    3Siegfried, Elaine C, and Adelaide A Hebert. “Diagnosis of Atopic Dermatitis: Mimics, Overlaps, and Complications.” Journal of clinical medicine vol. 4,5 884-917. 6 May. 2015, doi:10.3390/jcm4050884
    4Shaw, Tatyana E et al. “Eczema prevalence in the United States: data from the 2003 National Survey of Children’s Health.” The Journal of investigative dermatology vol. 131,1 (2011): 67-73. doi:10.1038/jid.2010.251
    5Nutten, S. (2015, April 24). Atopic dermatitis: Global Epidemiology and risk factors. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. Retrieved March 21, 2022, from
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Originally published: March 21, 2022
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