Table of Contents
Nature or Nurture: Is Eczema Genetic?
Date of Content: September 21, 2023
Written by: Jess Gayo
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD
What are the Main Causes of Eczema?
Eczema is generally thought to be caused by a confluence of genetic and environmental factors. Several genes, particularly those linked to skin barrier function, immunological response, and inflammation, have been recognized as potential eczema contributors. Genetic variations in these genes can lead to the weakening of the skin’s barrier defenses and increasing sensitivity to irritants, allergens, and infections.
The role of the immune system is crucial in eczema. When the skin is exposed to eczema triggers such as allergens or irritants, the immune response is frequently hypersensitive in eczema patients, which causes excessive inflammation. Redness, itching, and the distinctive skin lesions associated with eczema can all be symptoms of this heightened immune response.
LifeDNA offers full and comprehensive information about many aspects of your skin health and its relationship with your genetic variation.
Eczema frequently runs in families, which suggests a close genetic connection. Children are more likely to get eczema if either one or both parents have it. Several specific genes, including the filaggrin gene, have been linked to eczema susceptibility.
Our skin serves as a barrier, shielding the body from the harm outside. The integrity of the skin barrier may be jeopardized by genetic abnormalities in the genes necessary for maintaining it. One such protein necessary for the operation of the epidermal barrier is filaggrin. The skin’s natural barrier function can be disrupted by genetic polymorphisms (SNPs) in the filaggrin gene (FLG), leaving the skin more susceptible to allergens and irritants from the environment. Therefore, those who carry certain FLG SNPs are more prone to experience eczema, and genetic abnormalities that affect the production of filaggrin can result in dry, cracked skin that is more prone to the onset of eczema.
Eczema can also be caused by genetic differences in immune system-related genes. When the skin comes into contact with triggers like allergens or irritants, there is frequently an excessive immune reaction. Genetic factors may have an impact on these immune system abnormalities, rendering certain people more susceptible to eczema.
Personalized therapy modalities may be possible with an understanding of the genetic causes of eczema. Individuals may have particular genetic abnormalities and immune system anomalies that can be identified through genetic testing, allowing for individualized treatment plans. This could involve specific treatments meant to repair the skin barrier or control the immune system.
Non-Genetic (Environmental) Causes
Even though genetics are important, eczema is a result of a complicated interaction between genes and the environment. Environmental variables can interact with genetic predispositions to cause eczema flare-ups or exacerbate current symptoms. These factors include exposure to allergens, pollution, and dietary choices.
An important environmental cause of eczema is exposure to allergens. Mold, pet dander, dust mites, and pollen are examples of typical allergens. These allergens may cause an immune system overreaction in people with eczema, resulting in inflammation and irritated skin.
Despite being less well known, some people’s eczema may also be affected by specific dietary decisions. Food sensitivities or allergies may indeed be a factor in eczema flare-ups. This external component of eczema can be managed by recognizing and avoiding particular trigger foods.
Abrasive substances such as soaps, detergents, and scents can irritate the skin and damage its barrier of defense. When this barrier is breached, allergens and irritants can enter more easily, which can cause flare-ups of eczema. Utilizing hypoallergenic products and avoiding certain irritants can help reduce this environmental cause.
Eczema can also be greatly affected by changes in the environment and weather. The skin can lose moisture in dry and low-humidity environments, increasing dryness and irritation. On the other hand, extreme heat and humidity can cause perspiration, which can make eczema symptoms worse. The effects of these environmental factors can be reduced by maintaining a steady and comfortable environment.
Another well-known environmental element that can cause or exacerbate eczema symptoms is emotional stress. Stress can impair the skin’s natural defenses and weaken the immune system, increasing the likelihood of flare-ups. People with eczema may find it easier to deal with this environmental factor by using stress management approaches including mindfulness, relaxation exercises, and counseling.
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Is Eczema Contagious?
Despite its prevalence as a visible skin condition, atopic dermatitis or eczema is not contagious. Understanding that eczema is not contagious is crucial for dispelling misconceptions and reducing the stigma associated with the condition.
The etiology of eczema, a non-infectious skin illness, is complex and mostly involves genetic and environmental factors. It is not brought on by microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, or fungi that can spread from one person to another by touch or exposure, although people with eczema may be more prone to infections due to the weakened skin barrier function. Eczema is brought on instead by the intricate interplay between the immune system, genes, and environmental factors.
Even though eczema is not contagious, it can run in families. Since eczema frequently has a genetic component, those who have had the ailment in their families are more likely to experience it themselves. This genetic propensity does not, however, indicate that eczema can be transmitted directly from one person to another by touch.
A compromised skin barrier and an overactive immune response are linked to this skin disease. These immune system abnormalities can render the skin more susceptible to environmental and infectious triggers. Different environmental factors, such as allergens, irritants, stress, and weather conditions, can cause or aggravate eczema symptoms.
Chronic eczema is a disease that can be controlled but not cured. Topical treatments, moisturizers, dietary changes, and avoidance of environmental irritants are frequently used in treatment. Instead of preventing transmission to others, these therapies concentrate on symptom relief and preventing flare-ups.
While eczema itself is not communicable, it should be noted that some skin illnesses may exhibit symptoms that are similar to eczema and may be mistaken for it. A medical expert can offer an accurate diagnosis and the best course of treatment in such circumstances.
Does Eczema Ever Completely Go Away?
Eczema seldom totally disappears, even though it occasionally becomes much better or even seems to be gone for a while. As they get older, some people may notice a progressive improvement in their symptoms, with the illness either getting milder or going away altogether. This occurs frequently in cases of infantile eczema.
The sensitive skin that many eczema sufferers have, however, makes them more susceptible to flare-ups brought on by allergens, irritants, stress, or environmental causes. With the right skincare regimens, lifestyle changes, and medical care, these flare-ups can be effectively treated.
Instead of hoping for a permanent cure, eczema management aims to achieve long-term control and reduce symptoms. Even while eczema never totally goes away, people with it can live healthy, pleasant lives by adhering to recommended treatments, avoiding irritants, and maintaining good skincare habits.
Is Eczema an Autoimmune Condition?
Eczema is not considered to be an autoimmune disease. Instead, a chronic inflammatory skin condition is the primary classification. Autoimmune illnesses, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis, are brought on when the immune system erroneously targets and destroys healthy tissues and cells within the body.
Instead of a systemic autoimmune reaction affecting many organs, eczema predominantly involves an aberrant immune response within the skin itself. In eczema, the immune system is frequently susceptible to environmental factors such as allergens or irritants, which results in inflammation and malfunction of the skin barrier. The outermost layer of the skin is predominantly affected by this heightened immune response, which can also result in lesions or blisters in addition to dryness, redness, and itching.
Although eczema is not an autoimmune disease, it does have certain immune system abnormalities in common with autoimmune illnesses. Both entail aberrations of the immune system, but there are substantial differences in the processes and targets of these immunological responses.
Is Eczema Genetic?
Atopic dermatitis etiology is still being researched. Epithelial barrier failure, immunological response, and interactions between neurons and the immune system all seem to be crucial factors.
As for the role of genetics, a meta-analysis study of 26 genome-wide association studies (GWAS) containing about 21,000 patients and 95,000 controls identified 31 loci related to atopic dermatitis. One of the genes identified in several studies is the FLG gene which produces filaggrin, a protein that is found in the epidermal differentiation complex (precursor profilaggrin) on chromosome 1q21.
Filaggrin is important for the skin barrier function and it is a component of natural moisturizing factors (NMF). FLG loss-of-function mutations are the key genetic risk factors for developing atopic dermatitis. In meta-analyses, FLG loss-of-function mutations have been associated with a three- to fourfold increased risk of developing atopic dermatitis
Natural moisturizing factors, or NMF, maintain skin hydration and water retention in the stratum corneum in low-humidity situations. The stratum corneum controls water homeostasis and acts as the first line of defense against environmental allergens and infections, and is composed of vertical layers of keratin filament-filled anucleate corneocytes.
Increased transepidermal water loss in the altered stratum corneum leads to increased permeability, decreased water retention, and changed lipid composition.
Eczema has a long history of being a difficult skin condition to treat. Options for traditional or historical eczema treatment have developed over time, incorporating many cultures and cures. Even while modern medicine has greatly improved our understanding of how to control eczema, some old methods are still useful and may provide relief to people looking for alternative or complementary options. Both traditional and modern treatment options are still used today.
Non-Genetic (Traditional or Historic) Treatment Options
Some traditional or historic treatment options include oats, herbal medicines, different types of natural oils, herbal plants, and superfoods like honey and milk.
For a very long time, oatmeal has been valued for its calming qualities. Warm baths with colloidal oatmeal added can help reduce eczema-related itching and irritation. On the skin, the oatmeal creates a layer of protection that keeps moisture in and calms inflammation.
The symptoms of eczema have been treated with numerous natural treatments. Herbs with calming and anti-inflammatory effects include calendula, chamomile, and witch hazel. Skin with eczema has been treated topically using remedies including herbal teas, poultices, or infused oils.
Virgin Coconut Oil
As a natural moisturizer for skin prone to eczema, coconut oil has grown in popularity. Its fatty acids aid in retaining moisture and minimizing dryness. Virgin coconut oil can offer comfort and enhance the skin’s barrier performance when applied to the affected regions.
Aloe vera, known for its cooling and anti-inflammatory properties, has been used to soothe eczema symptoms. Fresh aloe vera gel or commercially available preparations can be applied to affected skin to reduce itching and redness.
Honey has natural antibacterial properties and can help with wound healing. Some individuals with eczema have found relief by applying raw honey to their skin and covering it with a clean bandage or cloth.
Milk baths, often attributed to the ancient Egyptian queen Cleopatra, involve adding milk to a warm bath. The lactic acid in milk can help exfoliate the skin gently and provide relief from itching and inflammation.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine have treated eczema with acupuncture and a variety of herbal preparations. These therapies work to correct underlying imbalances that are thought to contribute to eczema while also balancing the body’s energy.
Genetic or Modern Treatment Options
At the cutting edge of dermatological research, genetic eczema therapies provide exciting new directions for the individualized and efficient therapy of this challenging skin condition. Individuals who have battled eczema for years now have hope thanks to the development of novel medicines that target particular genetic variables as a result of our growing understanding of the genetic foundation of eczema.
A modern method of treating eczema is biologic therapy. Biologics can target particular immune system chemicals that are known to contribute to the onset of eczema, such as interleukin-4 (IL-4) and interleukin-13 (IL-13). Biologics successfully lessen eczema-related inflammation and irritation by blocking these molecules. The first biologic treatment for eczema to receive FDA approval, Dupilumab, has demonstrated excellent results in clinical studies and has provided relief to numerous sufferers.
Topical Janus Kinase (JAK) Inhibitors
Topical Janus Kinase (JAK) Inhibitors are a novel class of medications designed to disrupt the inflammatory signals involved in eczema. These treatments target specific enzymes that play a role in the immune response. Tofacitinib, a JAK inhibitor, has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing eczema symptoms and improving the skin’s appearance.
Gene therapy is another contemporary eczema treatment that shows promise for people with severe genetic abnormalities that cause eczema even if it is still in the experimental stage. To provide a long-term cure, researchers are looking into ways to repair or correct the defective genes that cause immunological dysregulation or reduced skin barrier function.
When to Consult a Physician?
To pinpoint precise genetic factors causing an individual’s eczema, genetic testing and profiling are becoming more widely available. By choosing medications and therapies that address the particular genetic components of the disorder, healthcare professionals can customize treatment strategies. Personalized strategies can improve treatment results and reduce negative effects.
While these modern genetic treatment options for eczema hold significant promise, it’s important to note that they may not be suitable for everyone. Each individual’s eczema experience, and likely the etiology as well, is unique, and treatment should be tailored to their specific needs and genetic profile.
It is best to speak with a healthcare provider, such as a dermatologist, before attempting any traditional or old-fashioned treatments to be used along with modern treatments. This is to make sure they are secure and suitable for your particular situation. Additionally, as part of a holistic approach to eczema management, these ancient therapies can supplement modern therapeutic procedures and prescribed pharmaceuticals rather than replace them.
- Atopic dermatitis, often known as eczema, is a common skin illness that impacts millions of people worldwide.
- Eczema is a chronic skin disorder characterized by itching and swelling. It frequently appears as red, itchy, and sometimes painful rashes on the skin’s surface.
- The prevailing consensus is that a combination of hereditary and environmental factors contribute to eczema.
- Eczema typically runs in families, which raises the possibility of a strong genetic link. If one or both parents have eczema, a child is more likely to have it.
- Even though modern medicine has made significant advancements in our understanding of how to control eczema, some traditional remedies are still effective and may offer relief to those seeking an alternative or supplementary course of treatment.
Eczema, another name for atopic dermatitis, is a widespread skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Understanding what eczema is will help you manage and cope with its challenges. Although this chronic condition can be uncomfortable and frustrating, it is not contagious.
Eczema is a persistent skin condition marked by irritation and inflammation. It frequently manifests as rashes on the skin’s surface that are red, itchy, and even painful. Even though eczema can affect people of any age, it is more prevalent in infants and young children, with some people growing out of it as they age. This skin condition, however, can also last a lifetime.
*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.
Our reports and suggestions do not diagnose or treat any health conditions or provide any medical advice. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any major lifestyle changes or if you have any other concerns about your results.