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How Omega 3 Helps Eczema

author image Charlotte Waterworth
Based in London, Charlotte Waterworth has been writing about health since 2000. Her work has appeared in trade magazines, including "Independent Community Pharmacist," "Pharmafocus," "Current Drug Discovery" and "Hospital Healthcare Europe." She is a member of the European Medical Writers Association. She holds an honors Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and a doctoral degree in gene therapy, both from Cardiff University.
How Omega 3 Helps Eczema
Oily fish are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Photo Credit: Christian Colmer/iStock/Getty Images

Eczema is a skin condition characterized by inflamed, itchy, cracked and dry skin. Applying emollients may soothe irritated skin and prevent dryness and cracking. However, more severe cases of eczema may require treatment with topical corticosteroids or a drug known as alitretinoin designed to reduce inflammation. The University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC, notes that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may also help to alleviate eczema. Talk to you doctor before taking a fish oil supplement as it may interact with other drugs you may be taking or cause side effects.

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Omega-3 fatty acids play a role in the treatment of a number of medical conditions including asthma, high cholesterol and eczema. There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic both of which may have anti-inflammatory effects, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center notes.


The results of a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial published in the April 2008 issue of the "British Journal of Dermatology" show that one of the omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid, significantly improved symptoms of atopic eczema. Study results published in 2008 in the "Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition" also found that docosahexaenoic acid was associated with a reduced prevalence of atopic eczema in pregnant women.


Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oily fish such as tuna, salmon, herring and mackerel. However, you may prefer to obtain omega-3 fatty acids by taking a fish oil supplement. UMMC recommends taking fish oil equal to 1.8 g of eicosapentaenoic acid daily. However, this should only be used as a guideline. Ask your doctor how much fish oil you need to take to alleviate your symptoms.

Mechanism of Action

The exact mechanism by which omega-3 fatty acids exert their therapeutic effects has long-remained a mystery. However, findings presented at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology conference in April 2006 suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce inflammation by inhibiting the production of hormone-like chemicals known as prostaglandins.


Taking a fish oil supplement is likely safe for most people, Medline Plus reports. However, side effects may include bad breath, nausea, loose stools and nosebleeds. Taking more than 3 g daily may reduce the body's ability to fight infection and increase the risk of bleeding. Fish oil may interact with a number of drugs and reduce their effectiveness. As such, you should talk to you doctor before taking a fish oil supplement to treat eczema.

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