No one knows exactly what causes eczema. Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema. Although it resembles an allergic reaction, eczema is not brought about by allergies and it strikes children more than adults.
The widely accepted view about eczema is that it arises due to a number of combining factors that may consist of:
• Dysfunctions in the skin barrier that seep out moisture whilst enabling germs to enter the skin
• Activities that enhance the sensitivity of the skin
• The environment
• A dysfunctional immune system
Eczema cannot be transmitted to others and no one catches this skin disorder from contact with people who have eczema.
Genetic predisposition – Eczema can be genetically inherited and people with relatives who have seasonal allergies like hay fever, asthma or eczema are at high risk to develop eczema. Researchers also verify that a great number of children suffering from severe eczema will later on develop certain allergies or asthma.
Mother’s age at time of birth – For some unknown reason, statistics have revealed that mothers who give birth to babies at an advanced age will birth children that are likely to acquire eczema compared to babies born to younger women.
Environment – Children will likely get eczema if they:
• Reside in areas with cold climates
• Reside in areas that are highly polluted
• Are in high social classes
Foods – As mentioned before, eczema is not an allergy symptom but it does develop in children who have food allergies. This means that common food allergens like nuts, eggs and dairy although triggering allergy symptoms do not cause or worsen eczema.
Unlike allergy triggers, an eczema trigger is a factor that does not cause eczema. It does, however, cause an eczema flare up or worsens a flare up. Typical eczema flare-up triggers are materials that irritate the skin like synthetic fibers or wool. When they come into contact with the skin, they trigger a flare up. Some common skin irritant products and substances include:
• Cigarette smoke
• Irritants in the environment
• Sand and dust
• Cleansers and soaps
Flares can likewise be caused by some conditions that affect the immune system. Some conditions that can cause or exacerbate a flare include:
• Allergic response to common allergens like animal dander, pollen or mold
• Bacterial infection
• Flu or cold
Certain environments and specific activities that make the skin sensitive or dry out can cause flare ups. These can be:
• Living in a year-long dry climate
• Low humidity during winter
• Not lubricating the skin with lotions and emollients after bathing
• Becoming cold after sweating
• Being either too cold or too hot
• Prolonged immersion in water
Daniel Haun is a licensed acupuncture practitioner and the clinical director of Bailey & Haun Acupuncture in Oceanside, CA.