18. January 2019
Eczema in the Elderly Is Not Atopic Dermatitis

Inflammatory skin conditions not caused by bacteria or viruses can occur at any age. People 55 and older are most commonly affected. An international research team has now investigated the possibility of ‘elderly-onset atopic dermatitis’.

“Our study shows that eczema occurs much more often at age 55 and older than previously assumed, and what’s more, it may be linked to chronic exposure to traffic-related air pollution”, explains Dr Tamara Schikowski, lead scientist at the Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine (IUF) in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Eight in 100 women between the ages of 55 and 74 (men were not surveyed) reported newly occurring non-infectious changes to the skin (eczema). Those who had been exposed for many years to environmental pollutants such as fine dust and nitrogen oxides had a significantly higher risk of developing eczema

The causes of elderly-onset eczema are thought to be different from those of atopic dermatitis in children. The link between air pollution and eczema was stronger in older women if they did not have hay fever, there was no increase in the level of anti-IgE antibodies in the blood, and they were not genetically predisposed to an atopic disease such as atopic dermatitis.

“The finding that elderly-onset eczema is different from atopic dermatitis in children indicates that this is a separate, previously unknown disease”, says Jean Krutmann, director of the IUF.


Schnass W et al. Traffic-related air pollution and eczema in the elderly: Findings from the SALIA cohort. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2018;221(6):861-7.

Hüls A et al. Nonatopic eczema in elderly women: Effect of air pollution and genes. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2018;pii:S0091-6749(18)31442-8.

Pressemitteilung IUF: Neuentstehung von Ekzemen im Alter: Welchen Einfluss haben Gene und Luftverschmutzung? 23.11.2018

Text: ch/ktg