While eczema does not directly affect sexual functioning, it can cause intimacy issues by affecting a person’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Some people also experience pain or discomfort.

Research consistently shows that eczema affects quality of life.

For example, in a 2019 study of European adults with eczema, 57% reported experiencing emotional symptoms such as problems with intimacy or trying to hide their condition. It also found that 45% of adults with eczema continued to have moderate to severe eczema despite treatment.

Intimacy with eczema is possible, but it requires trust, sensitivity to the person’s needs, and attention to skin protection.

Read on to learn more about intimacy with eczema.

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Eczema causes severe patches of dry skin that may be itchy and painful. Sometimes, the skin is so dry that it cracks open and bleeds. People may experience both physical pain and emotional distress.

Together, these issues may undermine quality of life. In a 2019 study, 88% of adults with severe eczema said their diagnosis at least partially affects their ability to “face life.”

People with eczema also have a higher risk of skin infections. These can be painful and dangerous and may affect a person’s physical appearance.

A person may feel anxious about the potential to develop a skin infection, especially if their eczema is severe. A 2020 meta-analysis arrived at similar conclusions, finding that people felt ashamed of their eczema and appearance.

Additionally, a 2023 study found that psychological issues commonly co-occurred with eczema, including sleep disturbances, anxiety, and depression. People with eczema may miss work, change their clothing, feel uncomfortable wearing revealing clothing, or want others to avoid looking at their bodies.

Nothing about eczema necessarily requires someone to change or avoid relationships or intimacy. It is not contagious, and there is no evidence that sex worsens it.

However, by affecting a person’s mental state and physical comfort, it can affect intimacy and relationships.

In a 2020 study, researchers identified several themes that might affect this, including:

  • shame and embarrassment
  • reduced sense of attractiveness
  • avoiding sex
  • relationship challenges
  • lack of adequate professional support

Additionally, people with eczema may fear being judged, feel less attractive, and avoid physical intimacy as a result.

Navigating physical relationships with eczema can be challenging, but communicating one’s needs and concerns is key.

For some people, it may help to have a partner tell them how much they enjoy and appreciate their bodies. Others may feel more comfortable if they are able to cover parts of their body or turn off the lights.

Some strategies that may help include:

  • counseling to deal with the relationship and psychological effects of intimacy
  • treating the eczema to reduce its effects
  • forming a relationship with someone who is supportive and positive about the person’s skin and appearance
  • avoiding acts that irritate the skin, such as taking long hot showers
  • communicating openly and honestly about how eczema makes a person feel

People with eczema can consider what support feels right to them and communicate to their partners how best to provide this.

People with eczema consistently report emotional difficulties and self-consciousness about their eczema. Being mindful of these challenges is very important.

A person can try these strategies to help:

  • Avoid making negative comments about the other person’s skin.
  • If the person wants to cover parts of their body, support them.
  • Comment positively on the other person’s skin and body.
  • Encourage them to feel comfortable and safe.
  • Allow them time and accommodations to care for their skin. For example, it may be very important for them to have time to moisturize after a shower or to avoid dry heat.
  • Know that eczema is not contagious, means nothing about a person’s hygiene, and does not have to affect intimacy.

Eczema can affect a person’s appearance, which may affect the way they feel about themselves.

Intimate partners can help by offering support and unconditional love and acknowledging the challenges of living with eczema. They can also make accommodations to make the individual feel more comfortable.

Some people with eczema may need medical treatment or psychotherapy to deal with the condition.