Eczema Common Worldwide
Eczema is characterized by dry, red, and itchy patches on the skin. The chronic, non-contagious condition affects 5%-20% of the world's population but is especially common in children, more than half of whom will outgrow it.
The American Academy of Dermatology says eczema may be an abnormal response of the body's immune system to allergens like animal dander and dust mites. There is no cure, but moisturizers are generally recommended, along with topical corticosteroids. In some cases, doctors recommend an antihistamine to reduce itching.
Probiotic supplements seem to reduce diarrhea and bloating in kids who have been treated with antibiotics, and they are marketed as such, but in her experience, they don't have a noticeable effect on eczema, says Nanette Silverberg, MD, director of pediatric and adolescent dermatology at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City.
"Probiotics conceptually were well received by parents because it's a natural extract and if prepared properly could be quite safe. I haven't found them effective. I haven't seen any dramatic improvements in eczema," she says.
But Silverberg says there aren't enough data to prove either way the efficacy of probiotics. The review focused on small studies that might not give conclusive evidence.
Andrea Cambio, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist in Cape Coral, Fla., says patients and parents often ask about probiotics because they favor a more natural remedy to eczema. Still, she also hasn't seen positive results from probiotic treatment and isn't convinced they are completely safe. But she isn't discounting them completely.
"What is exciting is that his area of research has such great potential for future investigation," Cambio says.