Eczema flare-ups occur when something outside your body “switches on” the immune system, and your skin cells do not respond normally.1 However, the exact cause of eczema is still not fully understood. This skin disorder is believed to develop from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Your Eczema May Be Due to Your Genetics
Eczema is typically found in families with history of atopic dermatitis or any other atopic disease, including asthma and hay fever. Studies indicate that in people with eczema:
- There is a change in the skin barrier, which causes water to escape while allergens are able to enter, causing dry, itchy patches.2
- The skin doesn’t have enough amounts of cathelicidin, a natural antimicrobial that helps protect it from infections.
- A protein (claudin-1) is weakened, causing the skin cells to become leaky and permeable to allergens and infectious agents.3
- There is a deficiency in the protein filaggrin, which causes ichthyosis vulgaris, an inherited skin condition that is directly linked to atopic eczema.4
Environmental Stressors Trigger Flare-Ups
Eczema is also directly linked to an overactive response by the body’s immune system to certain conditions, or the presence of irritants or allergens.5 These are called “triggers,” which directly cause flare-ups to occur. Triggers can vary from one person to another, but here are some common types to watch out for:6
Identifying and avoiding your triggers, as well as knowing the factors that can aggravate your symptoms, will help keep your condition under control. Remember that your triggers may vary depending on the specific type of eczema you have.