Complications of Eczema

Skin problems, mental illness, and cardiovascular disease are tied to eczema

In addition to the core symptoms of eczema, the condition can also cause eczema complications, including eczema infection, eczema scars, an eczema sore, skin infections, pigment changes, bacterial dermatitis, and eczema herpeticum

This article will provide you with information on eczema complications. We’ll cover common complications and provide information on when to seek help. 

Close-up of woman's arm with eczema and nurse looking at it

Brothers91 / Getty Images

General Complications of Eczema

Eczema is a chronic skin condition that is associated with common symptoms like itching and discomfort. People with eczema are more like to have other conditions, including asthma and allergies. All of this can lead to general complications from eczema, including:

  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Red or flaking skin
  • Dry skin

You may also experience additional complications like cracks in your skin from severe eczema. It’s also common to experience eczema scars

Secondary Complications From Eczema

In addition to the complications above—which can be considered core symptoms of eczema—you may experience secondary complications. These conditions can affect more than just your skin.

Infections

Eczema is associated with a malfunctioning immune system. Eczema also leads to cracks and cuts in the skin. The skin protects the body from viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other agents that can cause infection. Because of skin damage and malfunctioning immune systems, people with eczema are more likely to experience skin infections than the general population.

Infections associated with eczema can include:

Eczema Herpeticum

Eczema herpeticum is a specific type of viral skin infection that affects people with eczema. Most often, it affects children. The infection happens when the skin is exposed to the herpes virus, and it covers large areas of the skin.

The result is a severe rash that covers the body in blisters. The blisters may look red, purple, or black, and they often release pus when they are opened. People with eczema herpeticum may also have a fever or generally feel unwell (have malaise).

Eczema herpeticum can be serious, so it’s important to get treatment quickly if you suspect it. The condition is treated with antiviral medicines. You might need antibiotics too if you develop a secondary infection. 

Self-Esteem Issues

People with eczema—especially children—may experience bullying. In addition, eczema is associated with lowered self-confidence. Seeking a therapist who is experienced in working with people with chronic or skin conditions may help. 

Mental Health Impacts

People with eczema are at higher rates of depression, anxiety, and behavioral issues. Kids with eczema may be at increased risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other hyperactivity disorders.

Heart Disease and Stroke

Research shows that people with eczema may have a higher risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Medical experts aren’t sure exactly why this risk exists. But if you have eczema, you should be proactive about looking after your cardiovascular health. 

How to Prevent Eczema Complications

It’s not always possible to prevent eczema complications. However, getting a prompt diagnosis and getting on a treatment plan that works for you should help. When your eczema is well-controlled, you’re less likely to have complications. A board-certified dermatologist (specialist in conditions of the skin, hair, and nails) can develop a treatment plan that works for you. 

Since eczema complications don’t just impact the skin, it’s important to monitor your overall health. Working with your primary care provider and a mental health provider, if you need one, can help keep complications in control. 

Undiagnosed or misdiagnosed eczema can lead to complications, since treatment is delayed until a diagnosis is made. If you believe you have undiagnosed or misdiagnosed eczema, seek a second opinion from a dermatologist.

If a Complication Is Suspected 

When you’re experiencing an eczema complication, you should seek medical care. Visiting your primary care provider is a great first step to take. However, you may need the care of other providers, including medical specialists and a therapist to manage complicatons. 

Summary

Eczema can leave you prone to skin infections, scars, boils, and other skin ailments. But the complications can also be more far-reaching. People with eczema are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular disease. Controlling your eczema and taking charge of your overall health can help keep complications at bay. 

A Word From Verywell

Living with eczema can be overwhelming, especially when you consider eczema complications. However, being aware of complications that could arise allows you to recognize when they’re happening. While you can’t always prevent complications, getting prompt medical attention can keep them from progressing. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How dangerous is untreated eczema?

    Untreated eczema increases your chances for complications. You may experience symptoms like itching and redness. You might also be at higher risk for depression, anxiety, and heart disease, so it’s important to take care of your overall health. 

  • What are the long-term complications of eczema?

    In the long run, eczema can increase risk for mental health conditions and cardiovascular disease. Medical experts aren’t entirely sure why this is so. But it emphasizes the fact that people with eczema need to pay attention to all areas of their health. 

  • Can eczema spread beyond the skin?

    Eczema is most closely associated with skin symptoms like itching and pain. However, people with the condition are also at risk for conditions that spread beyond the skin. These include mental health challenges, behavioral challenges, and cardiovascular disease.

5 Sources
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.
  1. National Eczema Association. Conditions related to eczema.

  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Eczema.

  3. National Institutes of Health. Eczema (atopic dermatitis) complications.

  4. National Eczema Association. Eczema herpeticum.

  5. National Health Services. Complications (atopic dermatitis).

By Kelly Burch
Kelly Burch is has written about health topics for more than a decade. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and more.