Skip to main content

Last Updated on August 18, 2023

Millions of people around the world suffer from eczema, a persistent skin ailment that has long baffled doctors and patients alike. Is Eczema an autoimmune disease or if it fits into another skin problem category? We will delve into the complex world of eczema in this blog, looking at its causes, symptoms, and ongoing argument over whether we can term it an autoimmune illness.

Is Eczema an Autoimmune Disease? Learning about Eczema

Atopic dermatitis, another name for eczema, is characterized by itchy and irritated skin. Anywhere on the body, it can show up as red, swollen patches, although the elbows, knees, and face are the most frequently affected regions. However, flare-ups often follow remissions, and the illness fluctuates.

What is An Autoimmune Disease? Is Eczema an Autoimmune Disease?

An autoimmune illness comes about when your immune system incorrectly attacks something in your own body. This attack may occur in your skin or within your organs.
There is a great filter in the immune system that determines which parts of the body are foreign and which belong to the body. For example, when you get sick, your immune system can find the germ and destroy it. The immune system also has a memory, so if you get the same bug again, it may recognize it faster.

However, the immune system does not always function properly. Instead of detecting invaders, it mistakenly detects a component of your own body as foreign. And attacks it. Type 1 diabetes is a good illustration of this. In this situation, the immune system targets pancreatic cells that aid in inulin production. When these cells are damaged, the pancreas can no longer produce insulin, necessitating lifelong insulin supplementation.

Is Eczema an Autoimmune Disease? Features of An Autoimmune Disease

Within the medical world, there is continuous research and debate on the subject is eczema an autoimmune disease or not. For the sake of understanding this topic, let’s first distinguish between autoimmune disorders and other types of conditions.

A person’s immune system may unwittingly attack healthy tissues, resulting in autoimmunity. Lupus, type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis are examples of autoimmune disorders. A skin barrier function that is abnormal in eczema, on the other hand, causes moisture loss and sensitivity to irritants and allergens. However, the question “Is eczema an autoimmune disease?” remains standing. Let’s read further into the blog.

Types Of Eczema

Atopic Dermatitis (AD)

There are several types of eczema, but atopic dermatitis is perhaps the most common type. The skin becomes inflamed and itchy and oozes and crusts over time. It usually appears in infancy. Families with a history of eczema, asthma, or hay fever are more likely to develop atopic dermatitis.

Atopic dermatitis triggers might include irritants, allergens, environment, and stress. This condition can be persistent, with periods of remission and flare-ups.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes into direct contact with an irritant or allergen. This type of eczema is classified into two subtypes:

  • Allergic Contact Dermatitis

This occurs when the immune system reacts to a substance that is perceived as an allergen. Common culprits include metals (like nickel), certain fragrances, and latex.

  • Irritant Contact Dermatitis

Unlike allergic contact dermatitis, this type occurs by the skin’s reaction to irritants like harsh soaps, detergents, and chemicals. It doesn’t involve an immune response.
Both subtypes result in red, itchy, and sometimes blistered skin at the site of contact. Identifying and avoiding the triggering substance is crucial for managing contact dermatitis.

Nummular Eczema

Nummular eczema, also known as discoid eczema shows round or oval-shaped patches of inflamed skin that are often mistaken for fungal infections. The cause of nummular eczema remains elusive, but it’s often associated with dry skin and colder climates. This type can be particularly itchy and may require targeted treatment to alleviate symptoms.

Dyshidrotic Eczema

Dyshidrotic eczema primarily affects the hands and feet, presenting as small, fluid-filled blisters that can cause intense itching and discomfort. This type of eczema is often linked to allergies, stress, or exposure to certain metals like nickel. The blisters may eventually burst and lead to peeling, cracking skin.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis primarily affects the scalp, face, and other areas rich in oil glands. We can see red, scaly patches that can become itchy and cause dandruff-like flakes. Although the exact cause is not fully understood, factors like genetics, hormones, and yeast overgrowth contribute to seborrheic dermatitis.

Stasis Dermatitis

Stasis dermatitis, also known as venous eczema, usually occurs in the lower legs of individuals with poor circulation. It often characterizes an underlying venous insufficiency and can lead to swelling, redness, and scaling of the skin. Managing the underlying circulatory issues is crucial in treating stasis dermatitis.


Neurodermatitis, commonly known as lichen simplex chronicus, is defined by thicker, leathery areas of skin caused by continuous scratching or rubbing. It often develops in response to an initial itch, which triggers a cycle of itching and scratching. Stress and anxiety can exacerbate neurodermatitis.

Autoeczematization (Id Reaction)

Autoeczematization, or the id reaction, is a type of eczema that occurs as a reaction to an underlying fungal, bacterial, or parasitic infection elsewhere in the body. It typically presents as a widespread rash that may not resemble the classic eczema appearance. Treating the underlying infection is essential to managing Id reaction.

The Immune System’s Role in Eczema

Is Eczema an Autoimmune Disease? While eczema may not match the usual description of an autoimmune illness, the immune system is undoubtedly involved. There is evidence of immunological dysregulation in eczema patients. Certain immune cells, such as T cells, become overactive and contribute to eczema-like inflammation and itching.
Moreover, the body’s response to allergens plays a crucial role in eczema development. Individuals with eczema often have a heightened sensitivity to allergens in their environment, triggering immune responses that worsen the condition.

Is Eczema an Autoimmune Disease? Genetic Factors and Eczema

Genetics also have a significant effect on eczema. According to a study, certain genes can increase the risk of contracting the condition. These genetic variables lead to skin barrier irregularities, allowing moisture to escape and irritants to penetrate, triggering an immunological response.

Environmental Triggers and Eczema

Environmental factors tend to aggravate eczema symptoms. Irritating substances such as detergents, soaps, and certain materials can cause flare-ups. Furthermore, allergens such as pollen, cat dander, and dust mites can trigger immunological responses that aggravate eczema. While these triggers do not immediately classify eczema as an autoimmune illness, they do illustrate the complex interaction between the immune system and environmental variables. However, this helps answer the question: is eczema an autoimmune disease

Is Eczema an Autoimmune Disease or Does it Overlap With Autoimmune Diseases?

Interestingly, there are instances where eczema coincides with autoimmune diseases. Some individuals with eczema might also have other autoimmune conditions, suggesting a potential link between the two. However, this correlation does not definitively answer if eczema is an autoimmune disease.

What Are The Treatment Options?

Since eczema is so complex, treatment techniques vary and frequently try to address both immune system dysregulation and skin barrier abnormalities. To relieve inflammation and irritation, topical corticosteroids and immunomodulators are frequently administered. Moisturizers and emollients also aid in the restoration of the damaged skin barrier.
However, doctors can prescribe systemic treatments like oral corticosteroids or biologics if the condition persists. These treatments often target the immune response, further emphasizing the immune system’s role in the condition.

When should you consult a doctor about your eczema?

A visit to your doctor at the first indication of eczema or any skin changes can be beneficial. Inform your provider if you have a history of autoimmune disorders. This may aid them in making an eczema diagnosis and determining the best treatment plan for your symptoms.

The Future of Eczema Research

Is Eczema an Autoimmune Disease? Investigations into eczema are evolving, offering new information on the disease’s fundamental causes. Scientists are investigating the disease’s genetic and immune system components to better understand how they contribute to its progression.
As our understanding grows, better-suited and effective treatments may emerge.

Is Eczema an Autoimmune Disease: A Word From MetroBoston

In the ongoing debate of whether eczema is an autoimmune disease or something else, one thing is clear: eczema is a complex and multifaceted condition with various factors at play. While it may not fit the traditional mold of autoimmune diseases, the immune system’s involvement and the intricate interplay between genetics, environmental triggers, and immune responses are undeniable.

Is eczema an autoimmune disease or a distinct category of skin conditions, the focus remains on improving the quality of life for those affected? As research advances, we inch closer to unraveling the mysteries of eczema, paving the way for more targeted treatments and a better understanding of its underlying causes.


MetroBoston Clinical Partners is a well established and experienced research center in the greater Boston area. Under the leadership of qualified physicians and medical professionals, we coordinate a range of clinical research trials in Dermatology and Internal Medicine.

Leave a Reply