Both eczema and lymphoma can cause changes in your skin. Consulting a doctor for a diagnosis is the best way to learn the difference.
Eczema is one of the most common skin conditions in children and adults, affecting roughly 31.6 million people in the United States alone. This condition is so common that 10% of people will develop eczema in their lifetime, according to the National Eczema Association.
Although eczema is one of the most common causes of itchy, irritated skin, there are other conditions that can cause an eczema-like rash, including lymphoma. Some research even suggests that people with eczema have a higher risk of developing certain types of lymphoma.
Below, we’ll discuss whether eczema can be a symptom of lymphoma and explore the possible relationship between eczema and lymphoma risk.
When we talk about eczema, most people think of dry, itchy skin, the best-known symptom of the condition. But eczema is more than just irritated and inflamed skin ― it’s actually a handful of skin conditions with different symptoms and different triggers.
Lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in your lymphatic system, a system that plays an important role in keeping your body healthy. Early symptoms of lymphoma can include:
- swollen lymph nodes
- night sweats
- unexplained cough
- shortness of breath
- itchy skin
- skin rashes
- abdominal pain
- appetite changes
- unexplained weight loss
Just as eczema can cause your skin to become discolored, itchy, and inflamed, some types of lymphoma can cause these symptoms. But not all rashes are eczema — and in this case, the rash is a symptom of lymphoma, not eczema.
Because one of the possible symptoms of lymphoma is a dry, itchy rash, it’s possible for a lymphoma rash
- a rash that looks like sunburn
- scaly or light patches on your skin
- itchy, raised plaques on your skin
- darkening or lightening of skin in the affected area
- thickening of the skin on your soles and palms
- painful, burning, or infected skin
- changes in your nails or eyelids
While some of these symptoms are similar to those of eczema, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma also causes other symptoms, such as swollen lymph nodes, hair loss, and even skin tumors in its advanced stages.
In some cases, Hodgkin’s lymphoma can also cause itchy skin and an eczema-like rash. According to
Talk with your doctor
If you develop an eczema-like rash that lasts for more than 2 weeks, you should talk with a doctor about it. They’ll be able to start a line of treatment for you or recommend further testing if they suspect a certain type of cancer.
While having eczema doesn’t increase your risk of most cancers, some research suggests that eczema might increase the risk of developing lymphoma.
In one large
Results of the study showed that atopic dermatitis (eczema) was associated with an increased risk of lymphoma ― especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In addition, people with more severe eczema had a greater risk of developing lymphoma.
In a large
According to the results, children with severe atopic dermatitis had an increased risk of developing lymphoma but not cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Severe eczema in adults was also associated with twice the risk of developing non-cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.
Some of the symptoms of eczema and lymphoma are similar, but doctors treat these two conditions very differently.
Eczema treatment involves a combination of medications and therapies to reduce symptoms and inflammation.
Medications for eczema, such as antihistamines, steroids, and antibiotics, can reduce symptoms and limit flare-ups. Doctors may also use these medications to treat skin rashes and infections in people with lymphoma.
Lifestyle strategies can help regulate eczema symptoms and reduce flare-ups. Some recommended changes include learning and avoiding your triggers, moisturizing your skin frequently, and taking advantage of at-home treatments.
As with other types of cancer, treatment for lymphoma typically includes therapies and medications that shrink or kill cancer cells. Because lymphoma affects your lymphatic system, surgery isn’t usually a common treatment for this cancer.
Aside from radiation therapy and chemotherapy medications, other treatment options can help reduce lymphoma symptoms. For example, topical medications and phototherapy can help treat skin symptoms that develop because of lymphoma.
But ultimately, eczema and lymphoma are different health conditions that require different treatment approaches ― even in people who have both conditions. Your healthcare team will be able to advise on the best treatment regimen for you.
Eczema causes itchy, irritated, discolored skin, and certain types of lymphoma can also cause a rash that’s easily mistaken for eczema. However, the rash from lymphoma is not the same as eczema, as these are two separate conditions with different diagnostic criteria and treatments.
If you’ve recently noticed any changes in your skin, such as itchiness or a rash, reach out to a healthcare professional with your concerns. While it may not be anything serious, a proper diagnosis is the first step in getting the treatment you might need.