What Happens If I Don’t Treat My Eczema?

Living with eczema can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience, but what happens if you decide not to treat it? Ignoring the symptoms of eczema can lead to potential complications that can negatively impact your daily life. From constant itching and skin infections to psychological distress and sleep disturbances, untreated eczema can significantly diminish your quality of life. It’s crucial to understand the importance of seeking appropriate treatment to effectively manage your eczema symptoms and minimize the potential long-term consequences.

Physical Effects of Untreated Eczema

Increased Itching and Irritation

Untreated eczema can lead to increased itching and irritation on the affected areas of your skin. As eczema is characterized by dry and inflamed skin, the itchiness can become intense and persistent. Without proper treatment, this itching can worsen over time and become a daily nuisance that affects your quality of life.

Skin Inflammation and Redness

If left untreated, eczema can cause the inflammation and redness of your skin to become chronic. This means that the affected areas will remain constantly red and inflamed, making them more sensitive and prone to irritation. The longer eczema remains untreated, the more difficult it becomes to reduce the inflammation and redness.

Persistent Dryness and Cracking

Failure to treat eczema can result in persistent dryness of your skin. As eczema impairs the skin’s ability to retain moisture, it can become excessively dry and prone to cracking. This can lead to discomfort and pain, especially when the affected areas of your skin are subjected to friction or pressure.

Formation of Blisters and Vesicles

In some cases, untreated eczema can progress to the formation of blisters and vesicles. This condition, known as vesicular eczema, is characterized by the appearance of small, fluid-filled blisters on the skin. These blisters can be extremely itchy and may even ooze and crust over time. The presence of blisters and vesicles can intensify the pain and irritation associated with eczema.

Intensified Skin Discoloration

Long-term untreated eczema can lead to intensified skin discoloration. Hyperpigmentation, which is the darkening of the skin, can occur as a result of the inflammation and irritation caused by eczema. Conversely, hypopigmentation, which is the lightening of the skin, can also occur due to the loss of pigment. These changes in skin color can be permanent and contribute to self-consciousness and decreased self-esteem.

Skin Infections

One of the most serious complications of untreated eczema is the risk of developing skin infections. The constant scratching and breaks in the skin’s barrier can create openings for bacteria, fungi, and viruses to enter and cause infections. Staphylococcus aureus, a common bacterium found on the skin, can cause skin infections known as impetigo or cellulitis. Fungal infections, such as ringworm, can also occur. Additionally, untreated eczema can increase the likelihood of viral infections, including eczema herpeticum, which is a potentially severe infection caused by the herpes simplex virus.

Psychological Effects of Untreated Eczema

Impaired Sleep

Untreated eczema can significantly impair sleep quality. The itching and discomfort experienced as a result of eczema can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. This can lead to frequent nighttime awakenings and a disrupted sleep pattern, ultimately leaving you feeling tired and irritable during the day.

Reduced Quality of Life

Living with untreated eczema can significantly reduce your quality of life. The physical discomfort, chronic itching, and visible appearance of eczema can lead to feelings of self-consciousness, embarrassment, and social isolation. These psychological factors can impact your ability to enjoy daily activities, interact with others, and maintain a positive mood.

Impact on Mental Well-being

Untreated eczema can have a profound impact on your mental well-being. The persistent itching, pain, and visible signs of eczema can contribute to increased stress, anxiety, and even depression. The constant focus on managing the physical symptoms of eczema can also lead to a preoccupation with the condition, further exacerbating negative emotions and impacting overall mental health.

Complications of Untreated Eczema

Eczema Herpeticum

Untreated eczema can increase the risk of developing eczema herpeticum, a potentially serious viral infection. This condition occurs when the herpes simplex virus invades the broken skin barrier of individuals with eczema, leading to a painful rash with clusters of fluid-filled blisters. Eczema herpeticum requires immediate medical attention, as it can lead to severe complications if left untreated.


Neurodermatitis is a condition where intense itching and scratching lead to thickened and leathery skin. If eczema remains untreated, persistent scratching can trigger the development of neurodermatitis, particularly in localized areas. This cycle of itching and scratching can be challenging to break without appropriate treatment and management.

Contact Dermatitis

Untreated eczema can also increase the risk of developing contact dermatitis, a skin reaction that occurs when your skin comes into direct contact with an irritating substance. The compromised skin barrier in individuals with eczema makes them more susceptible to contact dermatitis, as the irritants can penetrate the skin more easily. This can worsen the symptoms and prolong the duration of eczema flare-ups.

Secondary Bacterial Infections

Without proper treatment, eczema can lead to secondary bacterial infections. The constant scratching can cause breaks in the skin, allowing bacteria to enter and multiply. Staphylococcus aureus, a common bacterium found on the skin, is a frequent cause of secondary infections in individuals with eczema. These infections can further exacerbate the symptoms of eczema and require medical intervention.


Untreated eczema in childhood has been linked to an increased risk of developing asthma later in life. The exact mechanism behind this association is not fully understood, but it is thought that the immune system dysregulation and inflammation seen in eczema may contribute to the development of asthma. Early and effective treatment of eczema can help reduce the risk of developing asthma.

Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, is another potential complication of untreated eczema. The chronic inflammation and immune system dysregulation present in eczema can make individuals more prone to developing allergies, including allergic rhinitis. This condition is characterized by nasal congestion, sneezing, and itchy or runny nose.

Food Allergies

Untreated eczema can increase the likelihood of developing food allergies. The immune system dysfunction and impaired skin barrier function associated with eczema can lead to increased sensitization to food allergens. This means that untreated eczema may make you more susceptible to developing adverse reactions or even anaphylaxis when exposed to certain foods.

In conclusion, untreated eczema can have a profound impact on both your physical and psychological well-being. The physical effects can include increased itching, skin inflammation, persistent dryness, the formation of blisters, intensified skin discoloration, and an increased risk of skin infections. From a psychological perspective, the untreated eczema can impair sleep, reduce your quality of life, and have a significant impact on your mental well-being. Additionally, untreated eczema can lead to complications such as eczema herpeticum, neurodermatitis, contact dermatitis, secondary bacterial infections, asthma, allergic rhinitis, and food allergies. It is crucial to seek appropriate medical treatment and management for eczema to mitigate these potential consequences and improve overall health and well-being.