What Is The Key Source Of Inflammation That Causes Eczema?

Have you ever wondered what causes eczema and why it can be so persistent? In this article, we will explore the key source of inflammation that triggers eczema flare-ups. Understanding the root cause of this common skin condition is essential in managing and finding effective treatments. So, let’s dive into the fascinating world of eczema and uncover the key culprit behind its inflammation.

Immune system dysfunction

Role of immune system in eczema

The immune system plays a crucial role in the development and progression of eczema. Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is characterized by chronic inflammation of the skin. When you have eczema, your immune system does not function properly, leading to abnormal responses to various triggers.

Abnormal immune responses

In individuals with eczema, the immune system overreacts to certain substances, such as allergens or irritants, triggering an inflammatory response. This abnormal immune response is driven by an imbalance in different types of immune cells and inflammatory molecules.

Type 2 immune response

One particular pathway involved in eczema is the type 2 immune response. This response is characterized by the activation of specific immune cells, such as T-helper 2 (Th2) cells, and the production of cytokines, such as interleukin-4 (IL-4) and interleukin-13 (IL-13). These cytokines promote inflammation and contribute to the development of eczema symptoms.

Inflammatory cytokines

In eczema, there is an increased production of inflammatory cytokines, including IL-4, IL-13, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). These cytokines drive the inflammatory response in the skin, leading to itching, redness, swelling, and the formation of eczematous lesions.

Genetic factors

Gene mutations and eczema

Genetic factors play a significant role in the development of eczema. Certain gene mutations make individuals more susceptible to developing eczema. These gene mutations affect the functioning of proteins involved in maintaining skin barrier integrity and regulating immune responses.

Filaggrin gene

One of the most well-known gene mutations associated with eczema is a mutation in the filaggrin gene. Filaggrin is a protein responsible for maintaining the integrity of the skin barrier. When there is a mutation in this gene, it impairs the skin’s ability to retain moisture and protect against irritants and allergens, increasing the risk of eczema development.

Other genetic variations

In addition to the filaggrin gene mutation, there are several other genetic variations that have been linked to eczema. These variations affect genes involved in immune regulation, skin barrier function, and the production of inflammatory cytokines. The interplay of these genetic factors contributes to the development and severity of eczema.

Environmental triggers


Allergens are substances that can trigger an allergic reaction in individuals with eczema. Common allergens include pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and certain foods. When exposed to these allergens, the immune system in individuals with eczema responds in an exaggerated manner, causing inflammation and worsening of symptoms.


In addition to allergens, certain irritants can cause flare-ups in individuals with eczema. These irritants include harsh chemicals in cleaning products, fragrances, soaps, and even certain fabrics. Prolonged or repeated exposure to irritants can disrupt the skin barrier and trigger an immune response, leading to eczema symptoms.


The presence of certain microbial organisms on the skin can also contribute to the development of eczema. Studies have shown that individuals with eczema have an altered skin microbiome, with an overgrowth of certain bacteria. Imbalances in the skin microbiota can disrupt the immune response and contribute to inflammation.

Weather conditions

Weather conditions can also impact individuals with eczema. Dry and cold weather, as well as excessive heat and humidity, can worsen symptoms and lead to flare-ups. These environmental factors can further compromise the skin barrier and trigger immune responses, exacerbating eczema symptoms.

Stress and emotional factors

Stress and emotional factors can have a significant impact on eczema. Stress can disrupt the immune system and contribute to inflammation. Additionally, emotional factors such as anxiety and depression can worsen eczema symptoms and lead to increased scratching, which further damages the skin barrier. It is important to manage stress and address emotional well-being to help manage eczema.

Skin barrier dysfunction

Role of skin barrier in preventing inflammation

The skin barrier serves as the body’s first line of defense against external irritants, allergens, and microbes. It acts as a barrier to prevent the entry of these substances into the deeper layers of the skin, thereby preventing inflammation. In individuals with eczema, the skin barrier is compromised, making it easier for irritants and allergens to penetrate the skin and trigger immune responses.

Disrupted epidermal barrier in eczema

In eczema, there is a disruption of the epidermal barrier, the outermost layer of the skin. This disruption can occur due to genetic factors, environmental triggers, or a combination of both. The compromised epidermal barrier allows for increased water loss and makes the skin more susceptible to irritants and allergens.

Increased skin permeability

The compromised skin barrier in individuals with eczema leads to increased skin permeability. This means that substances that would normally be unable to penetrate the skin can now enter, triggering immune responses and promoting inflammation. The increased permeability contributes to the exacerbation of eczema symptoms.

Loss of natural moisturizing factors

The skin barrier in individuals with eczema also experiences a loss of natural moisturizing factors, such as ceramides and fatty acids. These components are important for maintaining skin hydration and integrity. The loss of natural moisturizing factors further weakens the skin barrier, making it more susceptible to inflammation and irritants.

Imbalance of skin microbiome

Differences in skin microbiota between individuals with and without eczema

Research has shown notable differences in the skin microbiota between individuals with and without eczema. Individuals with eczema often have an imbalanced skin microbiome, with a decrease in beneficial bacteria and an increase in potentially harmful bacteria. This dysbiosis in the skin microbiome can contribute to inflammation and trigger immune responses.

Dysbiosis and inflammation

When there is an imbalance in the skin microbiome, it can lead to dysbiosis, a state in which the microbial community is disrupted. This dysbiosis can result in the overgrowth of certain bacteria, fungi, or viruses, which can trigger immune responses and contribute to the inflammatory nature of eczema. Restoring a healthy balance to the skin microbiome may help alleviate eczema symptoms.

Excessive immune response to irritants/allergens

Overreactive immune response

In individuals with eczema, the immune system often overreacts to irritants and allergens. Even substances that are generally harmless can provoke an exaggerated immune response, leading to inflammation and the characteristic symptoms of eczema. The overreactive immune response is driven by the abnormal functioning of immune cells and the release of inflammatory molecules.

Damage caused by irritants/allergens

Irritants and allergens can directly damage the skin barrier, leading to increased permeability and the entry of inflammatory substances into the skin. The damage caused by these substances further exacerbates the immune response and contributes to the persistent inflammation observed in eczema.

Inflammation cascade

Once the immune system is triggered by irritants or allergens, a cascade of inflammatory reactions occurs. This cascade involves the activation of various immune cells, such as mast cells, eosinophils, and T cells. These cells release inflammatory mediators, including histamine and cytokines, which promote further inflammation and contribute to the development of eczema symptoms.

Inflammatory cells and mediators

Mast cells

Mast cells are a type of immune cell that play a crucial role in the development of inflammation in eczema. When exposed to allergens or irritants, mast cells release inflammatory mediators, such as histamine, which contribute to itching, redness, and swelling. Mast cell activation is a hallmark of eczema and is associated with the typical skin manifestations of this condition.


Eosinophils are another type of immune cell that are often involved in the inflammatory response seen in eczema. These cells release toxic proteins and cytokines, which can further contribute to tissue damage and inflammation. Eosinophils are frequently found in high numbers in eczematous skin lesions.

T cells

T cells, specifically Th2 cells, play a significant role in the immune response in eczema. Th2 cells produce cytokines, such as IL-4 and IL-13, which promote inflammation and contribute to the development of eczema symptoms. The abnormal activation and proliferation of Th2 cells contribute to the chronic inflammatory nature of eczema.

Histamine and other inflammatory mediators

Histamine is a well-known inflammatory mediator released by mast cells in response to allergens and irritants. Histamine causes itching, redness, and swelling of the skin. In addition to histamine, other inflammatory mediators, such as cytokines and chemokines, are also released in eczema, contributing to the persistent inflammation and immune dysregulation.

Neuroimmune interactions

Role of nerves in eczema

Nerves play a significant role in eczema, as they are involved in the regulation of itching and inflammation. In individuals with eczema, the nerves in the skin become hypersensitive and can be easily activated by various triggers. This results in increased itching and a perpetuation of the inflammatory response.

Neurogenic inflammation

Neurogenic inflammation refers to the inflammation that occurs due to the activation of nerve fibers. In individuals with eczema, the activation of nerve fibers leads to the release of neuropeptides, which promote inflammation and contribute to the itching and redness experienced in eczema. The neuroimmune interactions further complicate the pathogenesis of eczema.

Role of hormones

Hormonal imbalances and eczema

Hormonal imbalances can influence the development and severity of eczema. Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause, can trigger or worsen eczema symptoms. The exact mechanisms by which hormones affect eczema are not fully understood, but it is believed that hormones interact with immune cells and inflammatory mediators to modulate the inflammatory response.

Effects of hormones on skin inflammation

Hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, can impact the skin’s immune response and inflammation. Estrogen has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, potentially dampening the immune response in eczema. On the other hand, progesterone can enhance the immune response and increase inflammation. These hormonal effects can contribute to the fluctuating nature of eczema symptoms.

Interaction of multiple factors

Complex interplay of various factors in eczema pathogenesis

The development of eczema is a result of the complex interplay of multiple factors, including immune system dysfunction, genetic predisposition, environmental triggers, skin barrier dysfunction, imbalance of the skin microbiome, excessive immune responses, inflammatory cells and mediators, neuroimmune interactions, and hormonal influences. Each factor contributes to the pathogenesis of eczema in its own way, and the interactions between these factors further complicate the condition. Understanding this intricate web of factors is crucial for developing effective treatments and management strategies for eczema.