What causes eczema?

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Eczema can flare up when cells in the skin overreact to common triggers, such as:
  • Dry skin
  • Irritants (including household chemicals, such as laundry detergent, soaps or certain fabrics)
  • Stress
  • Heat and sweating
  • Infections
  • Allergens (including pollen, mold, dust and animal dander)
Ben Kaminsky
Dermatology
Atopic eczema, the most common form, is linked to asthma and hayfever. Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by the body’s reaction to a substance in contact with the skin--for example, eczema due to repeated contact to nickel in earrings. Irritant contact dermatitis is caused by frequent contact with everyday substances such as detergents and chemicals that are irritating to the skin. This is most commonly found on adult hands. Adult seborrhoeic eczema affects adults ages twenty to forty and is caused by a yeast growth. This type is usually seen on the scalp as mild dandruff but can also spread to the face, ears, and chest. Varicose eczema affects the lower legs of adults in middle and old age.
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The exact cause of eczema is unknown. However, it is thought to be the result of a breakdown in the immune system in conjunction with severe dry skin. Stress and extreme temperatures can make the symptoms worse.

 

Different types of eczema have different causes but most of those causes are not fully understood. Eczema itself is not an allergic reaction, but it does tend to affect people with allergies. In cases of atopic, seborrheic, nummular and perioral dermatitis, the cause is unknown but it has been linked to an improperly functioning immune system. Contact dermatitis occurs when you touch a specific material that irritates your skin. Stasis dermatitis is caused by pooling blood in your legs and often affects people with varicose veins. Localized scratch dermatitis results from incessant scratching. Like many forms of eczema the cause of pompholyx is also unknown but there is some evidence to support claims that stress, fungal infections and contact dermatitis may play a role in developing the condition. Consuming elements like chromium, cobalt and nickel may be factors as well.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.