What Causes Eczema? With Dr. Peter Lio

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We have a really great video for you today from Dr. Peter Lio (see bio below). Scroll down to watch the video or read on for a full transcript.

Here’s what Dr. Lio had to say………

(transcript begins)

Today’s question is what causes eczema?

This is a great question and unfortunately we do not have a great answer to “what causes eczema?” or “what is eczema?” But some of the pieces that are important to think about include the fact that the skin barrier is leaky.

We know that the goal of the skin is to keep water in and keep things like bacteria and viruses, allergies and irritants out. When the skin is strong, it is doing its job, but if the skin becomes more leaky and that barrier is damaged then we lose water and those unwanted things enter in. This in turn triggers an inflammation response. The immune system is normally there to protect us, but in this context it starts to go crazy; attacking the skin, causing more breakdown, which fuels the process and also causes itch, which is another important component of eczema. That itch creates a cycle of scratching, which then further damages the barrier and allows more stuff to get in. Patients usually become stuck in this vicious itch-scratch cycle.

All of these things work together to cause trouble. We also know there is a role with bacteria as well. When that skin barrier is damaged, abnormal colonization by bacteria, particularly Staphylococcus, further worsens this.

For some patients we know there are multiple factors playing a role in what causes eczema. We do not fully understand which is the most important for each patient and that is part of what we are trying to understand. We do know that no matter where you begin, all these things come together to cause the disease.

(transcript ends)

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And for more from Dr. Lio on our blog, check out these great posts:

Will Your Child Outgrow Their Eczema?

4 Tips For Parents On Managing Eczema in Children

What Is The Atopic March?

Topical Steroid Withdrawal: Myth vs. Fact

Bio: Dr. Peter Lio is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Dermatology and Pediatrics at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine. He is the co-founder and co-director of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Center and very passionate about finding safe treatments that work for eczema. Dr. Lio received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, completed his internship at Boston Children’s Hospital and his dermatology training at Harvard. He has had formal training in acupuncture under Kiiko Matsumoto and David Euler, and has held a long interest in alternative medicines. He currently serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for the National Eczema Association. His clinical office is located at Medical Dermatology Associates of Chicago.



  1. Lynn on April 6, 2017 at 2:37 am

    Have you actually gone to Dr. Lio as a patient and received and followed his prescribed regimen?

    • Jennifer Roberge on April 6, 2017 at 7:46 am

      No, his clinic is in Chicago and I’m based in Montreal. But I did have the pleasure of meeting him on multiple occasions and he’s really great! I love that he’s open to holistic and integrative methods, which is a rarity in dermatology.

  2. […] According to Dr. Peter Lio, eczema is caused by a leaky skin barrier. (Read more about that here: What Causes Eczema? With Dr. Peter Lio). Once the skin is leaky, the barrier becomes more damaged, looses more water and in turn triggers […]

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