What Is The Main Cause Of Eczema In Adults?

If you’ve ever wondered about the main cause of eczema in adults, you’re not alone. Many people are seeking answers to understand this common skin condition better. Eczema can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience for adults, but understanding its root cause can help in managing and finding effective solutions. In this article, we will explore the main cause of eczema in adults and shed light on potential triggers that may contribute to its development. So, get ready to uncover the mystery behind this bothersome skin condition, and discover ways to alleviate its symptoms.


Family history

When it comes to the main cause of eczema in adults, genetics can play a significant role. If you have a family history of eczema or other allergic conditions such as asthma or hay fever, you may be more prone to developing this skin condition. Research suggests that certain genes can increase your susceptibility to eczema, making it more likely for the condition to be passed down from one generation to another. While having a family history of eczema doesn’t guarantee that you will develop it, it does increase your risk.

Inheritance of specific genes

In addition to a family history of eczema, specific genes related to the immune system and skin barrier function have been identified as potential factors in the development of this skin condition. Variations in genes such as filaggrin, which is involved in maintaining the integrity of the skin barrier, have been associated with an increased risk of eczema. These genetic factors can affect the way your skin functions and reacts to different triggers, making you more susceptible to eczema.

Gene mutations

In some cases, mutations or changes in certain genes can contribute to the development of eczema in adults. These mutations can alter the way your immune system responds to environmental triggers and irritants, leading to an abnormal immune response and inflammation. While gene mutations are less common than genetic predisposition or family history, they can still play a role in the onset of eczema. Understanding these underlying genetic factors can help scientists and researchers develop more targeted treatments for individuals with this condition.

Immune System Dysfunction

Abnormal immune response

The immune system plays a crucial role in protecting the body from harmful substances and pathogens. However, in individuals with eczema, the immune system can sometimes become overactive or imbalanced, leading to an abnormal immune response. This hypersensitivity can cause the immune system to react stronger and more aggressively to certain triggers, such as allergens or irritants, resulting in inflammation and eczema flare-ups. This immune system dysfunction is a significant contributor to the development and persistence of eczema in adults.

Overactive immune system

Related to the abnormal immune response, an overactive immune system can contribute to the development of eczema in adults. When the immune system is constantly on high alert, it can mistakenly recognize harmless substances as harmful and mount a defense response. This exaggerated immune response can trigger inflammation in the skin, leading to the characteristic symptoms of eczema. Factors such as stress, hormonal changes, and certain environmental triggers can exacerbate the overactivity of the immune system, making individuals more prone to eczema flare-ups.


On the other end of the spectrum, immune deficiencies can also play a role in the development of eczema in adults. In some cases, certain components of the immune system may not function properly, leaving the skin more susceptible to infections and inflammation. This weakened immune response can contribute to the persistence and severity of eczema symptoms. Additionally, individuals with compromised immune systems are more likely to develop secondary infections in eczema-affected areas, further exacerbating the condition.

Environmental Triggers


Exposure to allergens is a common trigger for eczema flare-ups in adults. Allergens can include substances such as pet dander, pollen, dust mites, or certain foods. When someone with eczema comes into contact with these allergens, their immune system may overreact, leading to inflammation and skin irritation. Identifying and avoiding specific allergens can help manage and prevent eczema flare-ups.


In addition to allergens, irritants can also trigger eczema symptoms in adults. Common irritants include certain soaps, detergents, fragrances, and chemicals present in cleaning products or cosmetics. When these substances come into contact with the skin, they can disrupt the skin’s barrier function and cause irritation. Avoiding known irritants and opting for gentle, fragrance-free products can help reduce the frequency and severity of eczema symptoms.

Climate and weather

Environmental factors such as climate and weather conditions can also impact the development and progression of eczema in adults. Cold and dry climates can lead to increased skin dryness, while hot and humid conditions can promote excessive sweating and irritation. Additionally, sudden changes in temperature or extreme weather conditions can trigger eczema flare-ups. Protecting your skin from extreme weather conditions and maintaining adequate hydration can help manage eczema symptoms.


Certain microorganisms, such as bacteria or viruses, can also contribute to the development and worsening of eczema in adults. Staphylococcus aureus, a common bacterium found on the skin, is known to thrive in eczema-affected areas and can exacerbate symptoms. Additionally, viral infections, such as cold sores or certain types of herpes, can trigger eczema flare-ups. Proper hygiene practices and avoiding contact with infected individuals can help reduce the risk of secondary infections and minimize eczema symptoms.


Physical stress

Stress, whether physical or emotional, has been identified as a potential trigger for eczema flare-ups in adults. Physical stressors, such as illness, injury, or exhaustion, can weaken the immune system and disrupt the skin barrier function. This can make the skin more susceptible to inflammation and irritation, leading to eczema symptoms. Managing physical stress through adequate rest, proper nutrition, and lifestyle adjustments can help minimize the impact on eczema.

Emotional stress

Emotional stress and its impact on eczema have been widely recognized. Episodes of high stress or chronic stress can trigger or worsen eczema symptoms in adults. Stress activates the release of certain hormones and chemicals in the body that can influence the immune system and increase inflammation. Additionally, stress can lead to behaviors such as scratching or rubbing the skin, which can further exacerbate eczema. Engaging in stress management techniques such as mindfulness, relaxation exercises, or therapy can help reduce the impact of emotional stress on eczema.

Triggering flare-ups

Stress, whether physical or emotional, can also trigger eczema flare-ups by intensifying other underlying triggers. For example, if someone is already predisposed to developing eczema due to genetic factors or environmental triggers, stress can further aggravate the immune system, making flare-ups more likely. Recognizing and managing stressors in your life can play a key role in not only managing eczema symptoms but also preventing them from occurring in the first place.

Dry Skin

Decreased skin moisture

Dry skin is a common characteristic of eczema and can contribute to the development of this condition in adults. The skin’s ability to retain moisture may be compromised, leading to increased dryness and susceptibility to irritation and inflammation. Factors such as low humidity, excessive bathing or showering, and the use of harsh soaps or hot water can further decrease the skin’s moisture content, exacerbating eczema symptoms. Regular moisturization and the use of gentle, hydrating skincare products can help maintain adequate skin moisture and reduce eczema flare-ups.

Loss of protective oils

The skin naturally produces oils and lipids that help protect and moisturize the skin. However, in individuals with eczema, there may be a deficiency or imbalance in the production of these oils. This can lead to compromised skin barrier function and an increased risk of moisture loss. Without these protective oils, the skin becomes more vulnerable to irritants and allergens, triggering eczema symptoms. Using moisturizers that mimic the skin’s natural oils and avoiding harsh skincare products can help restore and maintain the skin’s protective barrier.

Impaired skin barrier function

Impaired skin barrier function is a common feature of eczema in adults. The outermost layer of the skin, known as the stratum corneum, acts as a barrier against environmental factors and prevents moisture loss. When this barrier is compromised, as seen in eczema, irritants and allergens can penetrate the skin more easily, leading to inflammation and flare-ups. The impaired skin barrier function also affects the skin’s ability to retain moisture, resulting in increased dryness. Regular use of emollients and gentle skincare practices can help repair and strengthen the skin barrier, reducing the frequency and severity of eczema symptoms.

Dietary Factors

Food allergies

Food allergies can contribute to eczema symptoms in some adults. Certain foods, such as eggs, dairy products, nuts, and seafood, are known allergens that can trigger allergic reactions, leading to eczema flare-ups. Identifying and avoiding specific food allergens can help manage and prevent eczema symptoms related to dietary factors. Consultation with a healthcare professional or allergist can provide guidance in determining any potential food allergies and their impact on eczema.

Food sensitivities

In addition to food allergies, individuals with eczema may have food sensitivities. Unlike allergies, food sensitivities may not trigger an immediate allergic reaction but can still contribute to the development or worsening of eczema symptoms over time. Common food sensitivities associated with eczema include gluten, dairy, soy, and certain food additives. Keeping a food diary and eliminating potential trigger foods for a period of time can help identify any food sensitivities that may be contributing to your eczema.

Deficiency of certain nutrients

A deficiency of certain nutrients in the diet can affect the overall health of your skin and contribute to eczema symptoms. Essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6, play a vital role in maintaining healthy skin and reducing inflammation. A diet lacking in these nutrients may impair the skin’s ability to combat inflammation and irritants, making eczema symptoms more severe. Incorporating foods rich in essential fatty acids, such as fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, can help support skin health and alleviate eczema symptoms.

High intake of processed foods

A diet high in processed foods, refined sugars, and unhealthy fats can promote inflammation and exacerbate eczema symptoms in adults. These types of foods often lack essential nutrients and antioxidants that support skin health. The excess sugar and unhealthy fats can also contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, which can manifest as eczema symptoms. Opting for a balanced diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods, and reducing the consumption of sugary snacks and processed meals can help improve overall skin health and reduce the frequency of eczema flare-ups.

Hormonal Changes


Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during puberty, can impact the development and severity of eczema in adults. Fluctuating hormone levels can influence the immune system’s response, skin barrier function, and oil production. These changes can lead to increased inflammation, dryness, and sensitivity of the skin, making eczema symptoms more prevalent. Understanding the potential influence of hormonal changes during puberty can help manage and treat eczema effectively during this stage of life.


For women, hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle can also affect eczema symptoms. Hormonal fluctuations, particularly the decrease in estrogen levels before menstruation, can trigger or worsen eczema flare-ups in some individuals. The hormonal influence on the immune system and skin barrier function can lead to heightened sensitivity and inflammation. Managing hormonal changes through lifestyle modifications, stress reduction techniques, and possible hormone therapies can help minimize the impact on eczema symptoms during menstruation.


Pregnancy is another period of significant hormonal changes that can affect eczema in adults. For some women, eczema symptoms may improve during pregnancy due to the increased levels of estrogen and progesterone, which can have a calming effect on inflammation. However, for others, hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy can trigger or worsen eczema symptoms. Pregnancy-related hormone imbalances, combined with increased sensitivity and stress, can lead to eczema flare-ups. Working closely with healthcare providers to manage eczema during pregnancy is essential to ensure the safety and well-being of both the mother and the baby.

Hormone imbalances

Beyond puberty, menstruation, and pregnancy, hormone imbalances in general can contribute to the development or worsening of eczema symptoms in adults. Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disorders, or adrenal gland dysfunction can disrupt hormonal levels and function, affecting the immune system and skin health. Identifying and addressing underlying hormone imbalances through medical interventions, lifestyle changes, and hormone replacement therapy, if necessary, can help manage eczema symptoms associated with these imbalances.

Contact with Chemicals

Irritant contact dermatitis

Contact with chemicals, especially irritants, can trigger eczema symptoms in adults. Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes into direct contact with substances that irritate or damage the skin’s barrier function. Common irritants include certain chemicals present in cleaning products, detergents, cosmetics, or fabrics. Prolonged or repeated exposure to these irritants can lead to redness, itching, and inflammation characteristic of eczema. Wearing protective gloves, using gentle cleaning products, and avoiding prolonged contact with known irritants can help prevent irritant-induced eczema.

Occupational exposure

Some individuals may be more prone to developing eczema due to repeated exposure to certain chemicals or substances in their work environment. Jobs that require frequent contact with irritants or allergens, such as healthcare workers, hairdressers, or construction workers, can increase the risk of occupational contact dermatitis and eczema. Implementing proper safety measures, wearing protective clothing, and regularly moisturizing can help minimize the impact of occupational exposures on eczema symptoms.

Contact with cleaning products

Household cleaning products, including detergents, soaps, and disinfectants, can contain chemicals that can trigger or worsen eczema symptoms in adults. Direct contact with these products or exposure to surfaces cleaned with them can lead to skin irritation and inflammation. Opting for fragrance-free, hypoallergenic cleaning products, using gloves when cleaning, and ensuring proper ventilation can help reduce the risk of contact-induced eczema.

Excessive Sweating

Heat and humidity

Heat and humidity can cause excessive sweating, which can worsen eczema symptoms in adults. Sweat, when trapped against the skin, can increase moisture levels and promote irritation and inflammation. The combination of sweat and heat can also provide an ideal environment for the overgrowth of certain microorganisms, adding an additional risk factor for eczema flare-ups. Staying in cool environments, wearing breathable clothing, and avoiding excessive physical activity in hot weather can help manage excessive sweating and minimize its impact on eczema.

Physical activity

Engaging in physical activity and exercise is beneficial for overall health but can also lead to excess sweating in individuals with eczema. The friction caused by movement combined with sweat can irritate the skin and trigger eczema flare-ups. Proper hydration, wearing moisture-wicking clothing, and choosing activities with lower impact on the skin, such as swimming, can help minimize sweat-induced irritation and reduce the risk of eczema exacerbation.

Sweat-induced itching

For some adults with eczema, sweat-induced itching can cause considerable discomfort and further aggravate the condition. Increased moisture on the skin, coupled with sweat salts and friction, can lead to itching and scratching, potentially breaking the skin’s barrier and causing more severe eczema symptoms. Maintaining proper hygiene, promptly showering after sweating, and applying moisturizers to restore the skin’s barrier can help reduce sweat-induced itching and prevent its negative impact on eczema.

Scratching and Friction

Constant scratching

One of the key challenges for individuals with eczema is resisting the urge to scratch itchy skin. Constant scratching can damage the skin’s barrier, leading to increased inflammation and making eczema symptoms worse. The more you scratch, the more the skin reacts, and the itch-scratch cycle continues. Finding alternative ways to alleviate itching, such as applying cold compresses, using emollients or prescribed medications, and keeping nails short to prevent skin damage, can help break the itch-scratch cycle and minimize the impact of scratching on eczema.

Rough clothing materials

The choice of clothing materials is important for individuals with eczema, as rough or abrasive fabrics can irritate the skin and lead to eczema flare-ups. Synthetic materials, such as nylon or polyester, may trap heat and sweat, exacerbating skin irritation. Opting for soft, breathable fabrics like cotton can help minimize friction and reduce the risk of triggering eczema. Additionally, avoiding tight-fitting clothing and removing tags or rough seams can help prevent further skin irritation.

Friction from bedding or furniture

Friction from bedding or furniture can also contribute to eczema symptoms in adults. Rough sheets, heavy blankets, or furniture fabrics can rub against the skin, causing friction and irritation. This friction can disrupt the skin’s barrier function and lead to eczema flare-ups, particularly in areas prone to more prolonged contact, such as elbows, knees, or ankles. Choosing smooth, soft bedding materials and avoiding rough surfaces in contact with the skin can help minimize friction-induced eczema.