Researchers have found a link between polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and several skin conditions, including one form of eczema called seborrheic dermatitis.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects about 6–10% of women of reproductive age. Typical characteristics of this hormonal disorder are irregular periods, cystic ovaries, and high androgen levels. Androgens are a group of male sex hormones also present in females but typically at lower levels.

Some research demonstrates a link between PCOS and skin conditions like:

  • seborrheic dermatitis (a type of eczema)
  • dermatitis, or general inflammation of the skin
  • acne
  • hidradenitis suppurativa (HS)

Although the terms “dermatitis” and “eczema” are often used interchangeably, they are distinct conditions. Eczema is a type of dermatitis characterized by itchy, dry, and inflamed skin.

Elevated male hormone levels and inflammation are common factors in both PCOS and eczema, which may partially help explain the connection.

Although there are eight types of eczema, researchers have found a link between PCOS and seborrheic dermatitis in particular. Seborrheic dermatitis is a form of eczema that manifests as scaly plaques mostly on the scalp, face, back, and other oily parts of your body.

Here’s what else to know about the connection between the two conditions.

Issues with your skin and hair are often the earliest signs of PCOS. In fact, in a 2016 study, about 92% of over 400 women with PCOS also had at least one diagnosable skin condition.

Though acne is the most common comorbid skin condition, there also appears to be a connection between seborrheic dermatitis (often called seborrheic eczema) and PCOS.

Another sign of PCOS is the loss of menstruation (amenorrhea). PCOS may be mistaken for a condition called hypothalamic amenorrhea, which occurs due to issues with the brain’s hypothalamus and is often accompanied by:

People with PCOS often have high levels of androgens. This can cause skin inflammation, acne, and eczema or eczema-like skin conditions. As a result, researchers note that people with PCOS are often first seen by a dermatologist.

It’s typically not until later on that PCOS symptoms like menstrual issues, polycystic ovaries, or insulin resistance develop.

According to a 2019 review, the skin’s barrier is strengthened by estrogen but hindered by hormones like progesterone and androgens.

Since people with PCOS have elevated androgen levels and lower estrogen levels, it makes sense that patients’ skin barrier might be affected too. Seborrheic dermatitis is also due to a disrupted skin barrier.

While there’s no evidence to suggest that PCOS causes eczema or vice versa, they appear to be interrelated.

Several dermatological conditions have been associated with PCOS, including:

  • Acne vulgaris: The excess androgens associated with PCOS also appear to contribute to the development or worsening of acne. As a result, many people with PCOS may have recurring or persistent acne.
  • Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS): HS is a skin condition that causes bumps, nodules, or even boils, especially in places where the skin rubs together, like the thighs. Since insulin resistance and inflammation are underlying features of both HS and PCOS, that may help explain the connection.
  • Psoriasis: Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes symptoms like dry, itchy, or scaly skin. Though there’s limited research on the link between psoriasis and PCOS, one study found that psoriatic patients were more likely to get PCOS than a control group. Both conditions appear to be connected to an overactive immune response and inflammation.

Even though there’s not yet a cure for eczema, there are several ways to manage it, including:

  • moisturizing your skin regularly
  • oatmeal baths
  • applying cold compresses to outbreaks
  • avoiding common triggers, such as smoking and artificial fragrance

Medication used to treat eczema includes:

  • antihistamines (OTC)
  • topical or oral steroids (OTC or prescription)
  • topical or oral antibiotics (prescription, in case of infection)
  • immunosuppressants (prescription)

Natural and alternative treatments include:

  • phototherapy
  • healthy lifestyle change, such as eating healthily and exercising
  • relaxation techniques to minimize stress
  • acupuncture
  • aromatherapy
  • natural oils like coconut, sunflower, or borage

Though scientists think that balancing sex hormones may help manage both PCOS and eczema, more research is needed before exploring this as a potential treatment.

You can sometimes manage mild eczema at home by minimizing triggers and moisturizing your skin regularly. However, it’s a good idea to visit a dermatologist as soon as your condition interferes with your quality of life.

If possible, make a medical appointment for your eczema if:

  • It’s not responding to OTC treatments.
  • Your symptoms prevent you from sleeping well.
  • You’re struggling to carry out day-to-day tasks.
  • Your skin is blistering, weeping, peeling, or getting thick or scaly.

Since PCOS can also cause pain, emotional distress, and fertility issues, it’s also a good idea to visit a gynecologist if you think you may have the condition.

Because PCOS and certain skin conditions go hand-in-hand, early detection of either may help treat or diagnose the other. If you have eczema and PCOS, for instance, communication between your gynecologist and dermatologist may help facilitate the best treatment for your needs.

Research suggests there’s a link between PCOS, dermatitis, and one type of eczema called seborrheic dermatitis. Elevated male sex hormones and inflammation are common in both conditions, which may help explain the connection.

If you have eczema and also have issues with your menstrual cycle, you may want to visit a doctor about a potential PCOS diagnosis. If you have eczema that interferes with your day-to-day quality of life, it’s also a good idea to speak with a medical professional.