Eczema Causes

No one knows for certain what conditions specifically cause eczema, although problems with the body’s immune system may be to blame. Substances and events that are often perceived to cause the condition are actually triggers. The triggers cause underlying skin conditions to flare up and existing skin rashes to worsen, but they don’t actually cause the condition, per se.

Research into human genetics may hold the key to discovering the root cause of eczema. Until then, sufferers should attempt to avoid substances known to trigger skin rashes. Some of the more common ones are listed below.

Eczema and Family History

A clear link exists between family history and eczema. If both of your parents have the condition or they had it as a child, you have an eighty percent chance of developing it too. Fifty to sixty percent of all people with eczema have a close family relative who also suffers from the skin disorder.

Allergies

Allergies are thought to play a role in atopic dermatitis, but they are probably only a small part of it. Avoiding common allergens like dust mites and pollen may help some people to avoid flare-ups, but that is no easy task. Reading pollen reports and avoiding exposure on heavy days may help to curb the number and severity of outbreaks.

If you have a dust mite allergy, you’re not actually allergic to dust. Instead, you’re allergic to the dust mite, a microscopic organism that can be found just about everywhere. A dust mite allergy sufferer reacts to the skin shed by the mites, dust mite feces, and the dead bodies of the mites.

Does Stress Cause Eczema?

A good deal of debate rages on the role that every day stress plays in aggravating skin conditions. We know that stress does not cause skin rashes, but many skin conditions do seem to worsen when people are under stress. In many cases, living with disfiguring skin conditions causes emotional stress, which causes a vicious cycle: the stress worsens the skin rashes, which in turn causes more stress.

Environmental Triggers

Weather often affects skin conditions. Low humidity and cold weather may cause skin to dry and crack, making skin rashes even worse. High humidity and heat lead to sweating, which aggravates skin conditions that occur in the elbow and knee joints, beneath the breasts or in other skin folds.

Environmental factors can also include natural irritants, such as poison ivy and pet dander, and a host of man-made materials. Various cleaning solutions, perfumes and metals can all irritate sensitive skin on contact. People whose jobs require that they work with irritating materials, such as fiberglass insulation, should wear well-ventilated protective clothing to minimize contact with irritants.

Infection and Eczema

Some eczema sufferers find that their skin rashes are worse when their body is fighting an infection. This suggests that a faulty immune system may be implicated as a cause of eczema. Inflammation is part of a healthy immune system’s response to a threat: when the immune system defends the body against infection, inflammation of the affected body part often occurs. The sore throat you get with strep throat, for instance, occurs in part because of the body’s attempt to fight off the infection, and not because of the infectious organisms themselves. So when the body produces inflammatory agents in response to an illness, eczema conditions can sometimes become aggravated.

Resources

American Academy of Dermatology. (nd). What is eczema? Retrieved June 18, 2002, from www.derm-infonet.com/eczemanet/whatIs.html.

Dermsupport.com. (nd). Eczema and dermatitis. Retrieved June 18, 2002, from www.dermsupport.com/eczema/diff.htm.

Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. (2001). Eczema. Retrieved June 19, 2002, from www.findarticles.com/cf_0/g2603/0003/2603000336/p1/article.jhtml?term=eczema.

National Eczema Society. (nd). Eczema: Frequently asked questions. Retrieved June 20, 2002, from www.eczema.org/faqfile.htm#can.