Eczema is a common problem, affecting approximately 20% of children and around 5% of adults. But did you know that up to 81% of people living with eczema also have some type of food allergy?
Dr. Vicki Rapaport at Rapaport Dermatology of Beverly Hills specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions like eczema for patients throughout Beverly Hills and Culver City, California. If you have eczema, here’s what you need to know about its connection with food allergies.
Signs and symptoms of eczema
Healthy skin retains moisture and protects your body from environmental factors, like allergens, bacteria, and irritants. If you have eczema, your skin can’t perform this function properly, which causes symptoms including:
- Itching, especially at night
- Raised bumps that can ooze fluid and crust
- Thickened, scaly, cracked, raw, sensitive, or dry skin
- Patches of red to brownish-gray discoloration
Eczema symptoms often begin before five years of age and can vary in severity from person to person.
Eczema and your immune system
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, occurs because of a gene variation. Over 31 million Americans have eczema, and it’s often linked to other conditions, such as asthma, hay fever, and food allergies. This close link is likely related to how the immune system works.
Allergies develop because your immune system has an abnormal response to a normally harmless substance, like pollen, dander, or food. Eczema occurs because your skin can’t sufficiently protect your body from environmental factors. This allows allergens and irritants to penetrate sensitive tissues in your body, which also triggers a response from your immune system.
As a result, experts suspect the immune system becomes hypersensitive to allergens when you have eczema, leading to flare-ups from substances whether touched, inhaled, or consumed. You can see this theory in action by looking at kitchen workers with eczema who develop food allergies at higher rates than other people with eczema.
Eczema and food allergies
While food allergies can’t cause eczema itself, certain ones can worsen your existing condition. The most common food allergies that can lead to eczema flare-ups include:
You can also experience eczema flare-ups in response to foods without having an allergy. It’s also more common to develop food allergies if you have eczema early in life than those who experience it later.
Eczema and food sensitivities
Unlike an allergy that causes an immune system response, food sensitivities or intolerances lead to gastrointestinal symptoms, like bloating, gas, vomiting, and diarrhea. Two common examples of food sensitivities include non-celiac gluten intolerance and lactose intolerance.
Common food sensitivity triggers associated with eczema include:
- Apples, citrus, or kiwi
- Tree nuts
Dr. Rapaport may recommend tracking your eczema flare-ups with a food journal or undergoing allergy testing to confirm your potential triggers.
Managing eczema and food allergies
Eczema is a chronic skin disease requiring a comprehensive long-term management strategy.
After diagnosing your condition, Dr. Rapaport works closely with you to identify your specific triggers, including foods, and outlines a personalized treatment approach to control your flare-ups.
As part of your comprehensive eczema management plan, you can expect to adopt a specialized skin care routine, dietary modifications, and medications or light therapy designed to ease your symptoms.
Do you have eczema and food allergies? Call Rapaport Dermatology of Beverly Hills to schedule a consultation today.