Research suggests that genetic mutations may play a key role in eczema. That said, not everyone who experiences these gene mutations may develop eczema.

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Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a long-term (chronic) inflammatory skin condition. It may cause itchy, scaly, and sometimes painful patches or blisters.

Symptoms may appear at any point, but it’s more common to experience symptoms during early infancy or childhood.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, eczema affects up to 1 in 5 children.

Research suggests that a mix of genetic, immune, and environmental factors causes eczema.

Having a parent or sibling who has eczema may raise the chances that you’ll develop it. According to an older 2015 study, the likelihood of inheriting eczema is nearly 75%.

Keep reading to learn more about the relationship between eczema and genetics, as well as other potential causes of eczema.

Research from 2020 suggests that over 62 genes may have links to eczema.

Some genes may change the composition and function of the skin barrier. Others affect the immune system, causing allergic or inflammatory skin responses.

Genes that code for skin function

According to the National Eczema Association (NEA), people with eczema have a mutation of the FLG gene. This makes a large protein called filaggrin in the epidermis, which is the outermost layer of skin.

The epidermis is responsible for maintaining your skin’s barrier function. A healthy skin barrier can help retain moisture and protect your body from foreign invaders, such as toxins, bacteria, and allergens.

But when there’s a change or mutation in DNA sequences of the FLG gene, cells make less filaggrin. This affects the skin’s epidermis, leading to dry, uncomfortable skin that’s prone to infection and allergic reactions.

Approximately 20–30% of people with eczema have an FLG gene mutation. And there are over 40 FLG gene mutations in people living with eczema.

Genes that code for immune system function

Several immune genes have links with the onset of eczema, such as:

  • IL2RA
  • IL4
  • ADAM33
  • TGFB1
  • MIF

These genes may lead to allergic inflammation. They might also make your skin barrier weaker and affect how well your immune system responds to pathogens or bacteria.

Many potential causes can lead to eczema. In many instances, a combination of factors causes eczema rather than one individual cause.

Factors and causes of eczema may include:

It’s important to note that the stress of experiencing discrimination, racism, and other structural racism may play a part in developing the condition. This influence extends beyond genetics and the factors mentioned above.

Various factors may trigger eczema flare-ups. These factors may include:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • cold, dry air
  • heat and hot weather
  • irritants in everyday products, such as:
    • detergent
    • perfume
    • soap
    • cosmetics
    • body wash and bubble bath
    • household cleaning products
  • antibacterial ointments
  • cigarette smoke
  • outdoor pollutants
  • airborne allergens
  • some fabrics, such as wool and polyester
  • some metals, such as nickel
  • formaldehyde

The ideal way to help prevent eczema flare-ups is to moisturize your skin and avoid any triggers.

To help keep your skin moisturized, apply a cream or ointment soon after drying off from bathing or swimming.

It’s best to use moisturizers that are “fragrance-free,” according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

Manufacturers can legally list the word “fragrance” instead of actual ingredients. This is under an old Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruling called the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act. To help protect your skin, try avoiding scented personal care products.

According to the NEA, other tips to help prevent eczema flare-ups include:

  • staying hydrated
  • trying wet wrap therapy
  • using a humidifier in your home to keep enough humidity levels in the air
  • trying stress-reducing activities, such as meditation, yoga, and writing
  • getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week
  • eating a well-balanced, anti-inflammatory diet
  • protecting your skin from the sun

You may need to take a trial-and-error approach to identify your triggers, particularly when it comes to personal care and household products. Reading labels can help, but they may not always provide enough information.

A resource created by the American Contact Dermatitis Society called the Contact Allergen Management Program (CAMP) may help you find whether certain allergens are present in your skin care products.

Is eczema inherited from mom or dad?

You can inherit eczema from any parent who has a history of eczema, regardless of sex assigned at birth.

Are you born with eczema, or can you develop it?

Symptoms of eczema usually develop between 2 months and 5 years of age, according to the AAD.

What is the root cause of eczema?

The root cause of eczema isn’t known yet. However, research suggests that a mix of genetic, environmental, and immune factors may cause eczema.

Do you ever grow out of eczema?

Many people may find that symptoms of eczema go away during their adolescence. However, some people may experience symptoms throughout their lives because eczema is a chronic condition.

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that may cause itchy, scaly, and sometimes painful rashes and blisters.

Research shows that eczema has a strong genetic link. Several genes that affect skin function and the immune system may play a role.

Environmental factors and stress can also cause or trigger eczema.