Eczema is not a fatal condition. However, there is an increased risk of infections that could be life threatening without medical supervision. People with eczema may also experience cardiovascular issues.

While eczema itself is not a fatal condition, individuals living with eczema may experience complications that can cause health problems. However, with the right treatment, individuals can manage symptoms and flare-ups.

This article looks at the outlook for people with eczema and the risk of other conditions. We will also discuss the management and prevention of severe eczema flare-ups.

A woman floating in a pool on her backShare on Pinterest
Mats Silvan/Getty Images

Eczema generally causes a range of symptoms, including:

However, eczema may also lead to other health conditions. A person should discuss any other symptoms or concerns with a doctor.

A 2019 meta-analysis suggests that atopic eczema may correlate with an increased risk of:

However, the only study to report an effect of atopic eczema on cardiovascular death provided no evidence of an association.

That said, the authors recognize that they need to undertake more research for more conclusive evidence.

A 2022 study found no causal link between eczema, heart attacks, and strokes. The researchers reported that eczema might contribute to heart failure, as some people might be genetically predisposed to both conditions.

Additionally, 2019 research proposed an alternative theory for the possible correlation between eczema and cardiovascular health.

Eczema may predispose people to known risk factors for cardiovascular health problems. These include:

A person should consult a doctor to diagnose and treat any potential risk factors that may arise with eczema.

According to a 2021 review, people with eczema are more likely to develop viral, bacteria, and fungal infections. As the condition damages a person’s skin, it is easier for these pathogens to enter the body.

The same review notes that Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria colonize over 90% of people with eczema. This same bacterium colonizes only around 10% of those without the condition.

Skin symptoms of a staph infection include the following:

Depending on the type of infection, a doctor will usually prescribe:

  • oral antibiotics
  • topical creams or ointments
  • IV antibiotics, which they administer directly into a person’s bloodstream

Eczema herpeticum

Other infections are potentially more serious. For instance, when the herpes simplex virus causes a person’s eczema to contract an infection, it can cause a condition called eczema herpeticum.

Skin symptoms of this condition include blisters, which:

  • are itchy or painful
  • are red, purple, or black
  • ooze pus when broken

Other symptoms of eczema herpeticum include:

Eczema herpeticum is a serious medical emergency. If symptoms worsen, people must seek immediate medical attention. Early treatment can help prevent complications and stop them from spreading.

Possible complications may include:

A doctor will prescribe an oral antiviral medication to treat eczema herpeticum. They will recommend a person continues with any treatment for eczema and antibiotics if other infections develop.

According to a 2022 review, there are several main components to treating and preventing severe eczema flares.

Skin care

A skin care routine helps keep a person’s skin as hydrated as possible. It will involve a daily bath or shower in lukewarm water. The individual should then apply a neutral moisturizer to their skin within 3 minutes of the shower or bath.

Read more about following a skin care routine.

Avoiding triggers

Trigger avoidance is another important aspect of preventing eczema flare-ups. Several things can cause someone’s eczema to suddenly worsen, and these will vary among individuals.

The following are all possible eczema triggers:

Learn more about possible eczema triggers.

Anti-inflammatory therapy

Topical steroid ointments are very effective at treating eczema flare-ups and help reduce skin inflammation and irritation.

Find out more about steroid creams for eczema.

Other pharmaceuticals that doctors can inject into a person, including calcineurin inhibitors and dupilumab, are nonsteroidal.

They can also help people manage severe eczema flare-ups by preventing skin discoloration and itching relating to the condition.

Other treatments

There are some additional management strategies for eczema.

Research suggests taking probiotics could benefit people with the condition.

However, researchers found that current probiotics made little or no difference in reducing eczema symptoms, such as itching and sleep loss. However, they may slightly reduce the reported severity of eczema according to combined scores from patients and their doctors, although it is uncertain if such a change is so significant.

Learn more about other possible remedies for eczema.

Experts do not consider eczema a life threatening condition. However, people with eczema could develop skin infections that could prove fatal without suitable treatment. Potential complications can also develop from untreated infections.

There is also some evidence that eczema could be a risk factor for cardiovascular health problems. However, more research is necessary to explore the possible associations.

People with eczema should discuss possible links and risk factors for other health issues relating to eczema. This ensures they can receive prompt diagnosis and treatment for both conditions.