Eczema and Sex: How Eczema Can Affect Sexual Health

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Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a common skin condition that causes an itchy, inflamed rash on different parts of the body. The rash often flares up in response to triggers like certain product ingredients, temperature changes, foods, hormonal shifts, stress, or infection.

In addition to the visible skin manifestation of eczema, many people living with eczema report that the condition also deeply affects their sexual life.

This article discusses the link between eczema and sexual health and possible treatment options to help you cope.

A smiling Black couple being intimate.

FG Trade / Getty Images

What Is the Connection Between Sexual Problems and Eczema?

Sexual dysfunction or relationship intimacy challenges often coexist with eczema. Many adults with eczema have reported that the skin condition interferes with their sexual desire or sexual arousal for both physical and psychological reasons.

Physical Effects

An eczema flare-up is when the affected skin is inflamed, painful, dry, itchy, and uncomfortable. This can cause physical discomfort during sexual activities and intercourse—especially if the rash is on or near the vagina, penis, buttocks, thighs, or chest area.

People living with eczema on the genital region (genital eczema) often report that their sexual health is significantly affected by the condition. Some studies have estimated that up to 45% of people living with eczema have experienced a flare-up of the condition in the genital area.

Psychological Effects

Changes in a person's physical appearance can affect their emotional health, which in turn may contribute to sexual dysfunction or intimacy challenges.

Many people living with eczema experience embarrassment, anxiety, or low self-esteem about how their eczema rash looks. These emotions can make it challenging to be sexually intimate with a partner. Research has shown that these feelings can negatively affect the sexual desire of people living with eczema and sometimes their partners as well.

One study found that more than 80% of people living with eczema reported that the skin condition affected their sexual health. Their quality of life was even more negatively affected if the eczema was located in the genital area.

Symptoms and Sex Differences

Adults with eczema report that the most bothersome symptoms of the condition are:

  • Itchy skin
  • Excessive dryness
  • Inflamed skin with pigmentation changes (which may appear red, dark brown, purple, or ashen grey depending on a person's skin tone)

Anyone can develop eczema, but some research has suggested that the condition is slightly more common in people assigned female at birth than people assigned male. Studies are starting to look at how eczema may affect people of different sexes differently.

People With a Penis

For people with a penis, genital eczema can appear on the penis, testicles, anus, buttocks, and surrounding areas. Research has shown a possible link between eczema and sexual dysfunction (specifically erectile dysfunction) in people with a penis.

One study found that people with an inability to achieve or maintain an erection (erectile dysfunction) were 60% more likely to have a history of eczema.

Another study showed that sexual dysfunction in people with a penis was more likely if their eczema was severe or if they were also diagnosed with anxiety or depression.

People With a Vagina

The same eczema symptoms are common in people with a vagina, but there is less research on how sexual dysfunction is experienced by people in this group.

One study found that people with eczema who were assigned females at birth might be more likely to experience chronic pain on the affected skin during sexual intercourse, which can lead to a lack of sexual desire.

People with a vagina may also be more likely to have specific sexual health-related factors that can make eczema worse, including:

About 1 in 10 adults in the United States have eczema, and they come from different sex/gender and racial/ethnic backgrounds.

How Is Sexual Dysfunction With Eczema Treated?

Experts recommend the following steps for addressing sexual health challenges when you have eczema:

  • It's key to learn how to manage eczema flare-ups. Talking to your healthcare provider about the treatment options for eczema is an important first step. You may try home remedies, over-the-counter (OTC) products, prescription medications, in-office procedures, and lifestyle changes. If you have concerns about how specific treatments may affect genital eczema and your sexual health, make sure to bring them up with your provider.
  • Ask your provider about what you can do to address sexual dysfunction. You may benefit from treatments such as erectile dysfunction medications (Viagra), hormone therapy (testosterone patches), vaginal lubricant, or lifestyle changes. Your provider can also refer you to another provider who may have more expertise in treating sexual dysfunction.
  • Seek emotional support for your sexual wellness. Engaging in a healthy sex life can be beneficial for your overall health. Insecurities and stress about having eczema can be a barrier to your sexual desire. Find professional support, such as sex therapy for individuals or couples, or ask your provider for a referral for a specialist trained to treat psychological issues stemming from skin conditions (psychodermatologist).


Sex and intimacy can be hard for people with eczema because they may have physical discomfort from the rash as well as the psychological effects of living with a visible skin condition. It's important to discuss any sexual health challenges related to eczema with a healthcare provider. They can offer treatment, suggest lifestyle changes, or refer you to another provider who can help you manage both conditions.

A Word From Verywell

If you're not comfortable talking to a healthcare provider about your sexual health or you don't have access to healthcare services that cover skin conditions, you may find it beneficial to join a support group. There are online support groups for people with different types of eczema. Many people living with eczema find these groups helpful because they can connect with others who understand first-hand what it's like to live with eczema.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does having eczema lower your sex drive?

    Studies have shown that people living with eczema–particularly people with genital eczema—report having less interest in sexual intimacy.

  • Does eczema affect sexual health in men differently than in women?

    Most studies that have been done have looked into the link between eczema and erectile dysfunction (ED). The little research that has been done on people with a vagina and eczema has shown that they also report sexual difficulty, but sexual dysfunction has not been measured in this group as closely.

  • Is it safe to have sex when you have eczema?

    It is safe to have sex when you have eczema. Eczema is not contagious. You cannot transmit eczema to a partner

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Cristina Mutchler
Cristina Mutchler is an award-winning journalist with more than a decade of experience in national media, specializing in health and wellness content.