Can Low Testosterone Cause Eczema?
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.
Testosterone plays a big role in men's health. It fosters the production of red blood cells, boosts mood, keeps bones strong and aids thinking ability.
When levels decline, often called low testosterone (low-t), men experience a wide range of symptoms. These can include poor memory, depression and dwindling sexual drive.
Eczema is a group of conditions that cause itchy, red skin. They can be caused by a number of factors, including your genes, exposure to certain environmental triggers and stress.
Itching, swelling and itchy rashes are the main symptoms of eczema. They often occur on the arms, legs and around the face. Itchy rash symptoms can get worse if you scratch the skin.
The rash often starts when your immune system overreacts to allergens. These allergens include pollen, dust mites, animals and some foods.
Your diet isn't a major cause of eczema, but certain foods can make the itching and rash worse. Your doctor might suggest a food allergy test, by blood or skin pricking.
Some doctors also recommend taking extra vitamin D if your eczema is triggered by low levels of the vitamin in your body.
Avoiding irritants is the best way to treat your eczema. These irritants can include detergents, soaps, air pollution, dry climate and clothing that's too harsh.
Soaking your skin in a bath for 10 minutes each day will help ease itching. Try using a non-irritating soap and use a mild moisturizer after the bath.
Your doctor can prescribe topical or oral medications to help reduce itching. These include antihistamines, steroids or corticosteroids (a type of anti-inflammatory medicine).
Other medicines to fight eczema are called systemic immunomodulators. These medicines weaken your immune system so your body's defenses don't overreact to eczema.
The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis, which develops in people with skin that is very dry and sensitive. The skin becomes itchy, red and swollen and can sometimes develop blisters.
There are multiple factors that can increase your risk of developing eczema, such as your age and where you live. Those living in warmer climates are more likely to develop eczema than those who live in cooler, drier regions.
Research has shown that children who have 1 or more parents with eczema are more likely to develop it themselves, especially if other allergies (hay fever and asthma) run in the family. Genetics: Some people have a genetic mutation that makes their skin's barrier function not work as it should.
Eczema may be worse during certain times in your menstrual cycle. It also may flare up when you're pregnant or when you're experiencing high levels of hormones, like testosterone.
Hormones and Dermatology
Hormones play a big role in skin issues, from pregnancy and menopause to acne and other skin conditions.
Acne is a hormonal condition where the oil glands in the skin produce too much sebum, which can lead to clogged pores and breakouts. The hormones that cause this are testosterone and DHT (dihydrotestosterone).
Testosterone is produced in the ovaries, the adrenal glands, and in cells of the skin. When testosterone meets its receptors on the skin, it causes oil production to increase.
This can result in greasy skin and clogged pores that are difficult to treat. It can also stimulate T cells in the skin to produce IL2 and drive inflammation, which results in spots and other symptoms of acne.
Anti-androgen therapy can be helpful in treating acne and other hormone-induced skin problems by lowering the levels of these androgens in the body. Several products are available for this treatment, including gels that can be applied to the skin once a day.
Another form of anti-androgen treatment is injections that are given in the upper arms. The injections can be repeated every week or two.
For many people, these treatments work best when combined with physical treatments like hyfrecation of comedones and topical medications. But, the combination may not be ideal for everyone, so we’ll evaluate your situation and tailor a treatment plan that will make the most of your unique needs.
Can Testosterone Influence Eczema?
Testosterone is a hormone that your gonads (sex organs) mainly produce, including the testes in people assigned male at birth (AMAB), and the ovaries in people assigned female at birth (AFAB). It’s an important hormone for promoting sex characteristics in both sexes.
It’s also essential for maintaining bone strength and lean muscle mass in women. It helps women have more energy and feel good about themselves.
But it also plays a role in more subtle ways, like how your body regulates your emotions. If you have a low level of testosterone, you may experience depression, fatigue, and low libido.
Men with psoriasis have lower levels of testosterone than men without the skin disorder. This could make psoriasis worse, according to a recent study.
In addition, testosterone can slow down the process of building and healing your skin’s protective barrier. This means that you’re more likely to get cuts or burns, and you might have a harder time recovering from wounds.
The sex hormones estrogen and progesterone can disrupt your skin’s barrier and make it easier for bacteria, irritants, allergens and other things to penetrate your skin. Research suggests that this can lead to atopic dermatitis, or eczema, which affects 6% to 10% of premenopausal women.
Other sex hormones can cause eczema flare-ups as well, such as cortisol (the stress hormone). Excess cortisol can interfere with your immune system, which is important in protecting your skin from disease.
Here are 3 ways in which testosterone can affect skin conditions such as eczema:
1. Increased oil production
Testosterone increases the production of sebum, a complex mixture of cholesterol, free fatty acids, glycerides, squalene and wax esters, which helps to provide natural moisture for the skin. This increase in oil production starts at puberty and continues into adulthood.
In a new study, researchers from UT Southwestern found that low levels of testosterone may be linked to eczema in males and females. The study, published in Nature Communications, explains that testosterone suppresses the activity of T helper 2 cells, which are involved in the development and control of atopic dermatitis.
This leads to inflammation and irritation of the skin, which is why eczema is often associated with itching. Inflammation also causes the skin to dry out. In severe cases, a rash forms and crusts over.
It can also lead to itching of the scalp, which can result in hair loss. Black men, in particular, are more likely to suffer from a severe form of eczema called petaloid seborrheic dermatitis, where lesions in the creases of the scalp form and discoloration occurs. Stress can also trigger flare-ups, causing the body to produce more cortisol, which in turn leads to inflammation throughout the body.
2. Increased inflammation
While inflammation is a natural part of your body’s response to certain stressors and environmental stimuli, when it becomes chronic or severe it can become a problem. This is why doctors look for underlying causes when they try to treat eczema.
While there is no one specific cause for eczema, the disease can be affected by genetics, your immune system and the way it reacts to environmental triggers. In addition, changes in your hormones can make eczema more or less likely.
Hormone fluctuations are a normal part of your life and they can have a big impact on your symptoms, especially during pregnancy or menopause. You may be more likely to develop a flare-up during these times, and it is important to get treatment as soon as you notice the symptoms start to develop.
Studies have also shown that high cortisol levels can exacerbate eczema. This is because cortisol raises the production of inflammatory cells in your skin.
This is why it is important to avoid stress and anxiety, as well as to manage your mental health. If you have trouble coping with stress, talk to a mental health professional for help.
A healthy diet is an important part of treating eczema. It can help you reduce the number of foods that make your skin itchy and improve the texture of your skin. You should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as dairy products. If you have a low-quality diet, it could be worth seeing a dietitian to learn more about dietary changes that can help.
It is also important to wash your hands frequently, as this removes germs and irritants from your skin. You should also moisturize your skin regularly, as this helps keep it soft and supple.
You should also avoid harsh skin care products that can irritate your skin and cause it to break out. They can include soaps and detergents, fragranced skin lotions, talc, lanolin and propylene glycol.
Finally, you should avoid chemicals and irritants in your environment, including air pollutants, tobacco smoke and scented cosmetics. You should also avoid wearing clothes that irritate your skin, such as wool, cotton or synthetic materials.
3. Changes in skin barrier function
A major cause of eczema is changes in the skin barrier function, including a decrease in lipids and an increase in skin permeability. This can allow allergens, irritants and microorganisms to penetrate the skin and elicit an allergic reaction.
Low testosterone can contribute to this. Testosterone is a hormone that promotes production of lipids in the stratum corneum, or the outer layer of the skin. The lipids are composed of cholesterol, free fatty acids and ceramides.
The intercellular lipid matrix in the stratum corneum is an important pathway for substances to pass through the skin barrier and travel on to the epidermis. However, this lipid matrix is compromised in atopic dermatitis, which leads to impaired skin barrier function.
To study the role of lipids in the stratum corneum, we analyzed skin barrier integrity from mice that were exposed to different types of fatty acids. We found that butyrate-exposed animals had better skin barrier function at baseline, prior to exposure to allergens, than control mice.
In addition, butyrate-treated mice had increased loricrin expression in the stratum corneum (SC), which is critical for reinforcing barrier function. Compared to control mice, butyrate-treated skin exhibited thicker and more continuous SC layers after HDM exposure.
These findings show that dietary fibre-derived short-chain fatty acids can strengthen the skin barrier and reduce the severity of atopic dermatitis. Butyrate and other short-chain fatty acids are synthesised in the gut and are essential for maintaining healthy immune function and reducing disease severity.
Another way to improve the health of your skin barrier is to avoid irritants. This includes staying away from soaps, detergents, house dust mite, pollens and animal dander. You can also use moisturizers on your skin.
A good skin care routine is the best way to manage your eczema. It involves avoiding triggers and moisturizing your skin, which both help strengthen the skin barrier and keep it strong.
Your health care provider can also prescribe topical steroids to treat the rash on your skin. These medications work by decreasing inflammation, which helps to reduce the redness and itching. They are safe to use when prescribed by your health care provider.
The skin is home to numerous sex hormone receptors. Cyclical hormonal fluctuations influence lipid production, thickness, skin hydration, and barrier function.
Your sex hormones change throughout your life, including during puberty, menopause, pregnancy and menstruation. Those changes can make your eczema symptoms worse or even trigger an outbreak.
During puberty, testosterone increases oil secretion on the surface of the skin, especially in the face. This is an important way to maintain moisture and protect the skin's outer layer.
Although testosterone may not cause eczema directly, it can slow the development of a healthy epidermal barrier. This barrier, made up of ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids, helps prevent penetration of toxins, bacteria and allergens into the epidermis and keeps the skin hydrated.
As a result, the skin becomes more susceptible to infection and dehydration. The resulting skin dryness can trigger inflammation, and this can lead to the development of eczema.
Some people with eczema also suffer from anxiety and depression. This may be due to the relationship between eczema and the immune system, whereby inflammation sends signals that exacerbate stress.
Treatment for eczema includes medications to control the skin inflammation, as well as lifestyle measures to improve gut health and stress levels. This is to help reduce the overall body's burden and therefore, improve a patient's quality of life.