What is Eczema caused by? Learn more about the factors, conditions and substances that could trigger eczema anywhere on your body.
Eczema is a term which refers to the inflammation of the skin or dermatitis, and there are many different types of eczema such as atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, seborrhoeic dermatitis and nummular dermatitis.
If you get eczema, you will notice the symptoms of itching, redness and rashes on your skin. These symptoms may occur in small patches, or they may affect wide areas of the skin.
The symptoms of eczema can occur in different parts of your body. In atopic dermatitis, these rashes are usually seen near the joints such as the wrist, the elbow, the ankle, and the knee. They can also occur on the face.
In contact dermatitis, the rashes will occur at a site of the body that contacted an irritant.
In nummular dermatitis, the rashes tend to aggregate into discs which can be present on the arms or on the legs.
Seborrhoeic dermatitis usually affects parts of the body that have plenty of hairs such as the scalp.
Factors That Make You Likely To Have Eczema
If you have a type of skin which is usually dry all the time, you will be at increased risk of having attacks of eczema, because dryness of your skin makes it easier for the environmental agents that trigger eczema attacks to penetrate your skin. If your skin is always dry, you can prevent the development of eczema by making frequent use of a moisturizer such as petroleum jelly.
This is a term used to describe a condition where the immune system is overactive.
People who have this condition mount a significant immune response at the slightest challenge. The immune response will then cause symptoms such as rashes, swelling, redness and itching.
If you suffer from this condition, you will be prone to having allergic diseases like asthma and atopic dermatitis and you should avoid common environmental allergens.
Weakened skin barrier
The normal healthy skin acts as an effective barrier against the entry of agents in the environment. This barrier is due to the cellular architecture of your skin which is also rich in lipids and structural proteins that protect your skin from invasion by external agents.
If this barrier function of your skin is weakened, you will be prone to having atopic dermatitis.
In many people who have recurrent attacks of eczema, there is a particular structural protein called filaggrin which does not function properly. This protein is normally responsible for strengthening the cellular architecture of your skin. It also helps to conserve moisture in your skin.
If the structure of this protein is changed through a genetic mutation, the skin barrier will be weakened. This will make your skin more prone to be penetrated by environmental agents. It will also make your skin more prone to being dry.
If you have a relative who suffers from frequent attacks of eczema, you may also be likely to come down with attacks of eczema yourself. This is because allergic conditions often run in families.
The presence of close relatives with asthma, allergic rhinitis, and food allergies can also increase your likelihood of being prone to attacks of eczema.
Your environment is also a factor that affects your likelihood of having attacks of eczema.
If you belong to the higher social class and dwell in a highly urbanized environment, you are more likely to have eczema than those in the lower income classes who dwell in more rural areas.
This is because, in a highly urban location, you are more likely to be exposed to refined chemical products which could possibly irritate your skin resulting in attacks of eczema.
Some Substances That Trigger Attacks Of Eczema
There are many external environmental agents which could trigger an inflammatory response if they come in contact with your skin. If you react to any of these substances, you should make every attempt to avoid them:
Dusty environments are known to cause attacks of eczema. Apart from the irritant effect of the dust particles, there are some microscopic creatures which live inside dust. One of these creatures is the dust mite. Some people are sensitive to this creature, as well as its dung, etc.
If you are sensitive to the dust mite, then you will be prone to having attacks of eczema if you stay in a dusty environment.
Animal hairs and furs can also trigger off an allergic response in people who suffer from atopy and immune hypersensitivity. If you have sensitive skin, you may have attacks of eczema if you come in contact with animal fur. Therefore you should avoid keeping pets like dogs, cats, hamsters etc.
Pollen grains have been implicated in allergic diseases. Some people are sensitive to pollen. If they come in contact with pollen grains, they will experience allergies.
Many people are also sensitive to rubber and rubber products. If you are sensitive to rubber, you should avoid things such as latex gloves and other latex products.
Some people are sensitive to grass. In such people, contact with grass can result in localized contact dermatitis. Some others are sensitive to grass products such as hay which may cause an allergic response.
If you are sensitive to grass, you will need to avoid bushes as well as avoid contact with hay. Some other plants like nettles, poison ivy etc which are found in bushes can also cause contact dermatitis, and you will need to avoid them.
Industrial Chemical products
There are many chemical products which can result in attacks of contact dermatitis. These include chemicals found in paints, solvents, thinners, surfactants, dyes, etc.
Some of these chemicals may contain some metals. Contact and use of these chemicals can give rise to attacks of eczema in some people.
If you are sensitive to these chemicals, and you have to use them for work, then you should consider making use of non-latex gloves while handling them.
Many cosmetics contain refined chemicals which can cause an allergic response in some people.
These refined chemicals include fragrances, dyes, preservatives, solvents and stabilizers that are used in the preparation of these cosmetics.
If you react to any soap, perfume, cream, lotion or deodorant, you will need to discontinue its use.
- Nicole Yi Zhen Chiang, Julian Verbov. Dermatology, a handbook for medical students and junior doctors. 2nd edition. London, UK: British Association of Dermatologists; 2014.
- Australasian society of clinical immunology and allergy. Eczema ( atopic dermatitis). www.allergy.org.au. Accessed 4th January 2019.
- Eczema causes and Atopic Dermatitis Risks-WebMD
- Eczema triggers and causes-National Eczema Association.
- Atopic eczema-causes-NHS UK
Uche Udeariry is a doctor, medical writer, author and tech entrepreneur.
Following graduation, he practised clinical medicine for six years, before moving into medical writing.
He currently runs a string of businesses and is the proprietor of a tech startup committed to mobile app development and web development.
He has authored six books which are available on the Amazon store in Kindle and print formats. He is also working on his seventh and eighth books.