Causes of Eczema

Doctors and skin care researchers are not sure of the exact causes of eczema. However, they do believe that a combination of things contribute to this skin condition, such as environment, genetics, defects in the skin barrier, problems with the immune system, and certain activities, and triggers.

There are two main types of eczema – atopic eczema and contact dermatitis. Atopic eczema is caused by a problem within the body, whereas contact dermatitis is caused by a substance from outside the body.

Around 12 percent of all children and 1 percent of adults in the U.S. develop eczema. Worldwide, around 30 percent of children and 10 percent of adults are affected.


Eczema runs in families. Research suggests that if one parent has eczema, a child has a 60 percent likelihood of developing the condition. If both parents have it, the risk goes up to 80 percent.

While it is not contagious, the major risk factor is having relatives who have or have had asthma, hay fever, or eczema. Studies show that people with eczema have gene defects that lead to abnormalities of filaggrin, a protein that maintains skin barrier function.


The environment is also listed as one of the possible causes of eczema. Individuals who live in certain areas or locations are more likely to develop eczema. This includes people of higher social class, those who live in urban areas, and individuals who live in colder climates. Other environmental factors that can induce eczema include:

  • Low humidity in the air
  • Excessive bathing
  • Being too hot or too cold
  • Sweating

Is your home heating set to high? Do you sit near heaters at work or school? Too much bedding on the bed? As the skin gets hotter, more water is lost and the more irritable it becomes.

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Food Allergies

While eczema is not an allergic reaction, it is associated with certain food allergies. Foods and beverages that can trigger eczema or make it worse include alcohol, dairy products, wheat products, nuts, seafood, soy products, and eggs.

I would recommend an allergy test if you haven’t already taken one. By having an allergy test I found out that I was allergic to beef, lamb, cows milk and other dairy products.

It's hard telling a kid, that they can't have milk chocolate or custard. But there are alternatives, for example plain chocolate and goat's milk.

Skin Irritants

Common triggers are substances that irritate the skin. These include:

  • Perfume
  • Soaps and detergents
  • Cosmetics
  • Dust and sand
  • Chlorine
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Solvents

Health Conditions

Flare-ups can be triggered by certain health conditions that affect the immune system. These include:

  • Colds
  • Flu
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Allergic reaction to pollen, pet dander, or mold


Certain fabrics are known to make eczema worse. Wool and man-made fabrics often irritate the skin and cause flare-ups. Experts recommend that you wear 100 percent cotton clothing.


Stress is not one of the causes of eczema, but it can worsen symptoms and scratching behavior. It is best to avoid stressful events and situations, practice relaxation techniques, and reduce stress if possible.

As a kid I used to listen to a relaxation tape to lower my stress levels. This worked very well.

Dust Mites

The household dust mite is a tiny microscopic organism that lives in your home. People with eczema are often allergic to the dust mite.

To control dust in the home, keep all stuffed animals, throw blankets, and clothing closed up in a closet and frequently wash bed linens and bedspreads. Also, avoid carpets, feather pillows, and synthetic fabrics.

Pet Dander

Animal dander is often responsible for allergies and eczema flare-ups. Experts advise that you keep pets outdoors and do not allow them to sleep in the bedroom.

Learn More In The Following Articles:

Eczema and stress

Immunoglobulin e


Allergy testing

Eczema triggers

Which foods cause eczema

Eczema clothing

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