A skin dysfunction in which the skin barrier is unable to be repaired properly is the cause of Atopic Eczema.
Genetic in nature, eczema-susceptible patients have a less than optimal content of water and oil in their skin which can consequently become dry, scaly and easily irritated.
With the skin's barrier is not operating effectively, allergens are able to penetrate the surface and trigger the immune system, causing the affected skin to become red and itchy.
Scratching can exacerbate the situation by increasing inflammation and may introduce an infectious organism (usually Staphylococcus aureus) that can cause the affected area to become infected.
Contributing factors may include:
- Environmental allergens, such as dust mites, grass pollens and pet hair can contribute to eczema flare-ups when inhaled. Eczema sufferers commonly also have a dust mite allergy and even if they don't experience the condition initially, many sufferers become allergic to them later
- Some substances including perfume and synthetic or woollen fibres can irritate the skin of those prone to eczema
- Food allergies aren't a cause of eczema, but may trigger or aggravate the condition, especially in children. Dairy products, soy protein, seafood, nuts and seeds, eggs, and wheat are the foods most associated with the condition. These allergies, in most cases, are resolved in later childhood
- Over-heating of the body can be a factor as can abrupt changes in temperature or humidity
- Stress can also cause or aggravate an eczema outbreak