what is the root cause of eczema
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What Is the Root Cause of Eczema

An estimated 31.6 million people in the United States have a form of eczema. Although there are many different types of eczema, all of them affect your skin’s barrier, creating uncomfortable symptoms. These may include redness, itchiness, or dryness. 

Eczema is such a common condition that one in ten people will develop it at some point in their lifetime. But, what is the root cause of eczema? 

This article answers that question! In addition, it shares valuable suggestions for treating your skin condition and preventing symptoms from worsening.

What Is Eczema?

Eczema is a type of skin condition that makes your skin inflamed, leading to discomfort. It is not contagious, so someone with eczema can not spread it to another person. 

Since there are various kinds of eczema, the symptoms can look different for everyone. However, they generally include the following:

  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Dryness

The rash caused by eczema can appear in different areas of the body, depending on a person’s age. The most common areas include:

Infants: scalp, face, legs, arms, chest, or back

Children and teens: on folds of the knees and elbows, wrists, necks, or ankles

Adults: face, hands, feet, knees, or wrists

The affected areas almost always appear leathery and dry. They may change the color of your skin to a red or even brownish pigment.

What Is the Root Cause of Eczema?

Although experts don’t fully understand eczema, they know that it is likely a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Using this information, they are able to pinpoint some of the potential causes of eczema.

Overactive Immune System 

Autoimmune diseases cause your immune system to attack certain parts of the body. Although eczema is not an autoimmune disease, having one may irritate your eczema symptoms, leading to flare-ups.

Unfortunately, people with eczema also have more compromised immune systems because their skin barrier is compromised. This leaves them more susceptible to other illnesses. 


There is also a link between people with certain kinds of eczema and allergies. For example, you may be more susceptible to eczema flare-ups if you have asthma or get hay fever. Although these conditions are separate, they usually go hand in hand. 


It’s also possible that the issue lies in the skin’s barrier since people with dry skin get much more intense outbreaks. However, not everyone with dry skin gets eczema. 

The reason seems to be that some people with eczema have a gene mutation that affects their body’s normal production of filaggrin. Their skin doesn’t produce enough of this protein and lacks the barrier necessary to protect the outer layer. Viruses, bacteria, allergens, and other irritants that come in contact with the skin enter the body, resulting in a reaction. 

Because the genes that cause eczema are passed on, it’s more likely that you will develop the skin condition if another family member has it. 

Environmental Factors

Of course, eczema isn’t always genetic and can also have to do with your surroundings. Everyone’s triggers are different, but it’s common for people who work around chemicals to experience eczema. Even household cleaners can trigger a reaction, so it’s important to pay attention to the chemicals you use in your home if you have eczema.

While soaps, detergents, cleaners, or cosmetics tend to be the culprits of many allergy-related eczema outbreaks, fabrics that are coarse and itchy may also cause a flare-up.

The temperature or climate can also affect your skin condition. Although it doesn’t cause eczema, people who live in hot and humid climates may sweat more, irritating their skin and leading to a flare-up. Cold temperatures aren’t much better because they dry out the skin, making it more susceptible to an outbreak. 

Eczema and Stress

Stress can cause all kinds of negative reactions in your body, including inflammation, so it’s not surprising that it worsens eczema. Many people experience severe symptoms when they are sick because of the stress put on their bodies while fighting a virus.

In addition, people who are dealing with depression or PTSD may find that their conditions trigger their eczema, likely due to the stress caused by their emotional state. 

Types of Eczema

Eczema is a group of skin conditions, meaning that there are several types. Each has a different cause, but you can learn more about each one below. 

Atopic Dermatitis

This form of eczema is the most common. Many infants and children experience it, and it may become milder over time. Some people outgrow it altogether.

The rash tends to be in the creases of the elbows or the knees. However, babies may have it on their cheeks.

No matter the location, it changes the color or texture of the skin. There may be small bumps filled with liquid.

Usually, atopic dermatitis occurs along with hay fever and asthma. If you have these two conditions and a rash, it’s likely atopic dermatitis.

Contact Dermatitis

Eczema can also occur when a person touches a substance that irritates their skin. The result is a scaly rash that is irritated and red. It may feel itchy or sting, and you may get hives too.

Because this is an allergic reaction, it’s best to avoid any substances that trigger your eczema.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

When seborrheic dermatitis occurs in babies and young children, it is called cradle cap and will likely go away. But, if you experience it later in life, it will likely be an ongoing issue. 

Unfortunately, many people confuse seborrheic dermatitis with dandruff because of the itchy skin and flakes it causes on the scalp. However, it can also appear in other oily areas of the body, including the face. 

The cause of seborrheic dermatitis is often stress, which creates inflammation. This response causes your oil-producing glands to work harder, producing more Malassezia yeast, a natural organism on the surface of the skin. In excess, this yeast causes an immune reaction.

In addition to stress, other triggers include 

  • HIV
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Certain medications
  • Hormonal changes

The symptoms may come and go, but they are likely to occur more frequently in the winter than in the summer. 

Dyshidrotic Eczema

This form of eczema is worsened by stress, allergies, tobacco, and exposure to certain metals. It forms on the hands and feet, causing painful blisters and flaky skin. 


This type of eczema produces a similar rash as that caused by atopic dermatitis—thick, scaly areas. The difference is that this rash is especially itchy and may bleed if you scratch it. It’s most common among people with other types of eczema, especially during periods of stress.

Stasis Dermatitis

People with circulation problems may develop stasis dermatitis, a reaction that’s produced when veins leak fluids into the skin. Swelling is common with this type of eczema, as well as redness, itching, and pain. It’s usually experienced along with varicose veins.

Nummular Eczema

Nummular is Latin for “coin”, and this form of eczema gets its name from the circular spots that it causes to form on the skin. In this sense, it’s much different than all the other types of eczema. Most often, the cause is an allergic reaction or dry skin.  

Diagnosing Eczema

After reading about the different types of eczema, you may have identified some types that match your symptoms. To get a proper diagnosis, you’ll need to visit your healthcare provider. They can confirm it using an allergy test, blood tests, and a skin biopsy.

How to Treat Eczema

Treatment of eczema varies since everyone has unique triggers. However, some people can treat their eczema using a gentle moisturizer several times a day. Your doctor may also recommend topical treatments, such as steroid creams.

The type you have and the severity will also influence whether your doctor recommends an oral eczema medication. Some of the most common are corticosteroids and antihistamines, especially when they are the result of an allergy.

When the cause is an overactive immune system, your doctor may prescribe something that suppresses the response.

Managing Your Eczema Symptoms

Along with your prescribed eczema treatment, lifestyle changes can help you prevent flare-ups. Your best bet is to reduce stress and any triggers (to the extent possible). 

Still, you can’t always control eczema since it comes down to genetics and your environment. When you start to notice symptoms, treat them promptly to prevent them from getting out of hand. 

Get Help Treating Your Dry, Itchy Skin!

What is the root cause of eczema? After reading this article, you know the answer! 

If you suspect you have eczema, the tips in this article can help you reduce your symptoms and prevent flare-ups. However, it’s best to visit a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. 

It’s likely your dermatologist prescribes an eczema medicine, and if so, trust us for the best prices and quality. Best of all, you can fill your prescriptions without leaving the house. Learn how to order today!

Works Cited

  • Eczema Can Affect Us All, but Some More Than Others. WebMD. (2022, March 1)


  • Eczema Causes and Triggers. National Eczema Association. 
  • What Are the 8 Different Types of Eczema?. Healthline. (2023, January 2)


  • Eczema. Cleveland Clinic.