Experts aren’t sure what causes eczema, but many suspect that it has to do with moisture. Healthy skin uses moisture to keep bacteria and irritants out of your body, but if you have eczema, you know that the symptoms include dry, cracked skin. About 10% of Americans have eczema at some point in their lives.
Our team of experts at Dermatology Associates of Central NJ understands that eczema can disrupt your life. We’ve discovered that patients who know what triggers their flare-ups are better able to control them and endure less discomfort.
Usually, the symptoms of eczema appear before age 5, and include:
If you struggle with eczema, we may be able to help you find new ways to control it. Here, we describe five of the most common triggers for eczema flare-ups.
Eczema may not seem like a typical allergic reaction, but the two are related. You may discover that some of your eczema triggers include food and environmental allergies. People who have allergies are more likely to have eczema, and people with eczema are more likely to have allergies.
Another name for eczema is atopic dermatitis. Atopy is a genetic tendency to develop allergies. When you’re allergic to a substance, your immune system overreacts and creates an inflammatory response. In some people that response includes skin rashes or irritation.
It makes sense that allergies can make eczema worse. Experts have found that a wide variety of allergens can trigger eczema symptoms including foods like sugar, gluten, and some carbohydrates, as well as environmental substances like mold, dust mites, and pet dander.
You may not be allergic to things like cigarette smoke or certain fabrics, but you can still have an eczema flare-up if you come into contact with them and they irritate your condition.
Other common irritants include scented products, life air freshener or laundry detergents, some chemicals commonly used in household cleaners, and even certain metals. You may also find that sweating heavily can trigger your eczema symptoms.
You might be surprised to learn that your mental health plays a vital role in controlling your eczema symptoms. Stress and anxiety alone don’t cause eczema, but they can trigger flare-ups and make your symptoms worse.
Studies also show that people with eczema tend to have higher rates of anxiety or depression. Your good mental health is important for many reasons, including reducing eczema symptoms.
Dry skin is the enemy when it comes to eczema. When your skin gets too dry, it becomes brittle and you’re more susceptible to allergens and irritants. Your protective outer layer needs to retain moisture and the dryer it becomes the less water it can retain. It’s a vicious circle that results in chronically itchy, dry skin.
Extreme heat or cold can trigger eczema in some people. You might be looking forward to that ski trip only to learn that your skin doesn’t respond well to cold, dry air. Or you may imagine yourself enjoying a day of sunshine at the beach but discover it’s so hot you sweat sitting still — which triggers your eczema.
Obviously, you can’t control the weather, but you can make sure to use a recommended gentle moisturizer twice a day, control the humidity in your house, ensure you’re drinking enough water, and avoid excessive sweating.
If you’d like to learn more about eczema generally or begin exploring your personal eczema triggers, book an appointment at Dermatology Associates of Central NJ. We’re happy to answer your questions and discuss eczema in the context of your health and life.