What Is Eczema Caused By?

what is eczema caused by

What causes eczema? Eczema is one of the most common skin conditions in the US, yet there is very little understanding among the general public regarding what causes eczema. This may be because it is not always clear even to the medical community, and because there is more than one condition commonly called eczema.

Eczema is a term used to refer to a number of different skin problems, but the main two types of eczema both have their roots in the immune system: atopic eczema and contact eczema.

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The genetic connection.

Eczema is known to run in families, and may be passed down through generations along with allergies. Parents who suffer from eczema are likely to pass the condition on to their children. In truth, what is being passed down isn’t eczema precisely, but the genetic predisposition to eczema which is caused by an inappropriate immune response. Because the immune system is complex and its responses are controlled by more than one gene, the likelihood of inheriting the gene that causes eczema is a little more complicated than simply looking to the parents for signs of eczema.

It requires a combination of genes to create the immune response that causes eczema symptoms, so eczema in the family doesn’t guarantee a child will have it, nor will every child of an eczema sufferer have the same problems. With some diseases, only one pair of genes is involved, therefore you need only inherit one particular diseased gene from each parent in order to have the condition. Eczema, however, requires several genes to be inherited, and can be caused by more than one combination of diseased genes. This makes it much more complicated to predict.

This type of chronic atopic eczema doesn’t usually require contact with anything in particular to set off the reaction, but seems to flare up and recede at varying intervals. But a second type of eczema, known as contact eczema, does not require a genetic predisposition, and appears to be more related to an allergic reaction to a particular substance.

Eczema and allergies.

Just like hives or other allergic reactions, contact eczema – otherwise known as contact dermatitis – is caused by coming into contact with an allergen to which your body has a strong reaction. As with any allergic reaction, the immune system reacts very strongly to a particular substance and causes the dry, itchy rash recognized as eczema. What causes eczema in this case is truly the allergen, which could be anything from a particular fabric to a type of detergent. Avoiding contact with known irritants can prevent eczema rashes from occurring.

What does not cause eczema?

While there are many things that may worsen the symptoms of eczema, they aren’t truly the cause. Eczema is characterized by dry, itchy patches of skin that may even result in cracked, weeping sores. Dry skin is exacerbated by a dry environment. Dry air in your home or office and lack of moisture in the skin will make the symptoms of eczema worse, but the dryness isn’t the true cause.

Eczema is not caused by pollution in the environment, but pollutants in the air can definitely worsen the symptoms. The same goes for stress, which is commonly mistaken as a cause of eczema. Stress can make eczema breakouts more frequent and more severe, but an underlying cause of the eczema must still exist. A person who has never had eczema is unlikely to suddenly suffer from the condition simply because of stress.

The most important thing to remember is that eczema is not just a skin condition, but an immune disorder. Its causes are internal, even though the symptoms appear externally. While many external irritants can worsen eczema symptoms, they don’t actually cause it.

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