Eczema Causes And Triggers

Genetic Factors and Heredity

Genetics play a significant role in the development of eczema. Individuals with a family history of eczema or other atopic diseases, such as asthma or hay fever, are at a higher risk of developing the condition. This predisposition suggests a hereditary component, where specific genes affect the skin’s barrier function. Mutations in these genes, particularly the filaggrin (FLG) gene, can lead to a compromised skin barrier, making it more susceptible to irritants, allergens, and infections, which can trigger eczema flare-ups.

The Skin Barrier And Eczema

The skin barrier serves as the body’s first line of defense against environmental irritants, allergens, and pathogens. In eczema, this barrier is often compromised, leading to increased permeability. As a result, moisture escapes more easily, and harmful substances can penetrate the skin, contributing to inflammation and the characteristic itchy rash of eczema. Maintaining the integrity of the skin barrier is a focal point in managing eczema, emphasizing the importance of moisturizing and protecting the skin to prevent flare-ups.

Immune System Dysfunction and Inflammation

The development of eczema is closely linked to an overactive immune response. In individuals with eczema, the immune system can react excessively to minor irritants or allergens, leading to inflammation. This inflammatory response is a key feature of eczema, contributing to the redness, swelling, and itching associated with the condition.

Environmental Triggers

Environmental triggers play a pivotal role in the onset and exacerbation of eczema symptoms. These triggers vary widely among individuals but commonly include allergens such as pollen, pet dander, and dust mites. Irritants such as soaps, detergents, and certain fabrics can also provoke eczema flare-ups by damaging the skin barrier. Additionally, weather conditions, particularly extreme temperatures and humidity levels, can affect eczema.

Lifestyle and Eczema

Lifestyle factors, including stress and diet can influence eczema symptoms. Stress can exacerbate eczema by triggering the body’s inflammatory response, worsening the condition’s symptoms. Similarly, while diet does not cause eczema, certain foods may trigger flare-ups in some individuals.

Eczema in Different Age Groups

Eczema can manifest differently across various age groups, with distinct patterns and challenges. Here is a more detailed look at the presentation of eczema in different age groups:

Infants

  • Typically appears on the cheeks and scalp1
  • Often spreads to knees and elbows as they begin to crawl1

Children and Adolescents:

  • More likely to experience eczema in classical sites such as the knees
  • Associated and severe forms of the condition are more common in this age group

Adults:

  • Can develop eczema even without a childhood history
  • Symptoms may appear on the hands, neck, and face
  • Around 16.5 million adults in the U.S. have eczema that first showed up when they were under the age of 24
  • 40% of these adults have moderate to severe forms of the disease
  • 25% of adults with eczema reported that their condition began in adulthood

Older Adults:

  • Older adults tend to present with less flexural eczema and the fewest associated signs
  • This can make the diagnosis difficult in this population
  • Physician-diagnosed atopic dermatitis was identified in 894,454 individuals, with the following proportions in each age group: 18.3% of children, 7.7% of adults, and 1.67% of older adults
  • The prevalence of atopic dermatitis among older adults was unexpectedly high, suggesting a need for further research and targeted treatment recommendations

In all age groups, the psychological impact of eczema is significant, as chronic itch and visible skin lesions can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. The condition can affect social interactions, self-esteem, and overall quality of life.

Eczema and Mental Health

The psychological impact of eczema is significant, as chronic itch and visible skin lesions can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. The condition can affect social interactions, self-esteem, and overall quality of life. Stress, in turn, can exacerbate eczema, creating a cycle that is challenging to break.

Eczema in the Context of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new challenges for individuals managing eczema, particularly due to increased handwashing and the use of hand sanitizers. These necessary precautions can exacerbate eczema symptoms by further drying out the skin and disrupting the skin barrier. Additionally, the stress associated with the pandemic can also trigger or worsen eczema flare-ups. Adapting skincare routines to include more intensive moisturization and seeking ways to manage stress are important considerations during this time.