What Causes Atopic Eczema

The exact cause of atopic eczema is not fully understood, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There are several theories about what may contribute to the development of atopic eczema, including:

  • Your immune system: If you have eczema, your immune system overreacts to small irritants or allergens (triggers) in your environment. When you contact a trigger, your immune system assumes that these small irritants are foreign invaders, like bacteria or viruses, that can harm your body. As a result, the triggers activate your body’s natural defense system. Your immune system’s defense is to create inflammation. Inflammation causes symptoms of eczema on your skin.
  • Your genes: You’re more likely to have eczema if there’s a history of eczema or dermatitis in your family. You’re also at a higher risk if there’s a history of asthma, hay fever and/or allergies. Common allergies include pollen, pet hair or foods that trigger an allergic reaction. You could also have a genetic mutation that causes your skin’s barrier function to not work as it should.
  • Your environment: There’s a lot in your environment that can irritate your skin. Some environmental factors may bring out the symptoms of eczema. These include:
    • Irritants: These include soaps, detergents, shampoos, disinfectants, juices from fresh fruits, meats, and vegetables.
    • Allergens: Dust mites, pets, pollens, and mold can all lead to eczema. This is known as allergic eczema.
    • Microbes: These include bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, viruses, and certain fungi.
    • Hot and cold temperatures: Very hot and very cold weather, high and low humidity, and perspiration from exercise can bring out eczema.
    • Foods: Dairy products, eggs, nuts and seeds, soy products, and wheat can cause eczema flares.
    • Stress: This is not a direct cause of eczema, but it can make the symptoms worse
  • Emotional triggers: Your mental health could affect the health of your skin, which can cause a flare-up of eczema symptoms. If you have high levels of stress, anxiety or depression, you may have more frequent flare-ups of eczema symptoms.
  • Deficiency: A deficiency in the skin’s barrier function, which allows moisture to escape and irritants and allergens to enter the skin more easily
  • An imbalance of certain bacteria on the skin

What triggers eczema to flare up?

Eczema affects each person diagnosed with the condition differently. What causes your symptoms to flare up might not trigger someone else with the condition. Common triggers that cause eczema include:

  • Dry weather (low humidity).
  • Fabrics or clothing material.
  • Makeup or skin care products.
  • Smoke and pollutants.
  • Soaps and detergents.
  • Stress or your emotional well-being.
  • Touching something you’re allergic to.

Do certain foods trigger eczema?

The connection between eczema and food allergies is unclear. If you have food allergies, then one of the reasons why you must avoid that food is that it may cause or worsen your eczema symptoms. Examples of common allergies include:

  • Peanuts.
  • Dairy.
  • Eggs.

Pay attention to what you eat. If your eczema flares up after you eat a certain food, then you might have an allergy to it. If you don’t have a food allergy, then there are no foods that will cause or worsen your eczema.

Risk factors for atopic eczema include having a family history of the condition, having allergies, and living in a urban environment. It is also more common in people with certain medical conditions, such as asthma or hay fever.