Exploring the Link between Eczema and Genetics

Eczema or dermatitis can be uncomfortable to live with, as this chronic skin condition causes irritating flare-ups that can worsen in some situations. Because of its problematic symptoms, many people with this problem wonder if they got it from their parents or whether or not they’ll pass it on to their children.

Exploring eczema, its causes, and its link with your genes is crucial in understanding the chronic condition. With this, here’s everything you need to know about dermatitis:

What Is Eczema, and What Are Its Symptoms?

Dermatitis is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes the skin to become dry, red, scaly, and itchy. It affects the skin barrier, making the skin more sensitive and prone to dryness and infection. At its peak, eczema causes the skin to crack and leak fluids when the individual scratches it.

Eczema is not just one specific problem. There are many forms of this condition, such as atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic dermatitis, and several others.

Eczema typically shows up from early infancy or childhood, and it’s a fairly common problem in this specific age group. It occurs in around 15–20% of children and 1–3% of adults. Many young patients outgrow it or experience significant improvements as they grow, but it’s a lifelong condition for some people. Others may not even develop symptoms until adolescence or adulthood.

Symptoms may vary depending on the type of eczema, and they can worsen in certain situations, triggering what is commonly called a “flare-up.”

What Triggers Flare-Ups?

Contrary to popular belief, dermatitis is not a type of allergy. However, much like allergies, the condition responds to certain situations or triggers. Triggers do not cause eczema, but they can cause the skin to flare up and make symptoms worse. Some of the factors that contribute to flare-ups are:

  • Conditions That Affect the Immune System: Illnesses as simple as a cold, flu, bacterial infection, or allergic reactions can affect the immune system and cause eczema to flare up.
  • External Irritants: Substances that irritate the skin can trigger eczema symptoms. Some common irritants include wool, some types of synthetic fibers, metals, soaps, perfumes, makeup, dust, smoke, chlorine, and solvents. 
  • Environmental Conditions: Some environmental conditions that cause the skin to become sensitive or dry can worsen dermatitis symptoms, such as extreme temperatures, prolonged exposure to water, abrupt temperature changes, low humidity, and living in a dry environment.
  • Anxiety and Stress: These psychological factors are lesser-known but essential triggers for the condition. When a person experiences stress and anxiety, the body releases a hormone called cortisol, which can affect the immune system and cause flare-ups.

What Causes Eczema?

Doctors and medical scientists are still attempting to understand the root cause of dermatitis, but many studies suggest that it occurs due to a combination of factors. Some of the things that contribute to the risk of developing this condition include:

  • The Environment: People who live in urban areas with more pollution or places with colder climates are more prone to developing eczema. Higher socioeconomic status is also associated with increased risks of the condition.

  • An Unhealthy Skin Microbiome: Some forms of eczema occur due to particular microorganisms, such as bacteria or fungi. For example, many doctors postulate that a type of yeast is one of the causes of seborrheic dermatitis.

  • Immune System Problems: Patients with eczema typically have an overactive or sensitive immune system. They have trouble “turning off” the inflammatory response to triggers, leading to the symptoms of the condition.

  • Parental Factors: For unclear reasons, children born to older women are more prone to develop this chronic skin condition. Moreover, having one or both parents with eczema also increases the chances of inheriting it.

  • Is Eczema Genetic?

    There has been a popular misconception that eczema is contagious, but this is far from the truth. However, it can be inherited by children through their parents. While the exact cause of eczema is still largely unknown, many studies have found a link between the condition and the genetic make-up of a person. 

    The FLG Gene

    The skin’s outer layer typically has a protective barrier protecting it from foreign invaders. A protein called filaggrin (filament aggregating protein) forms tight bundles that help the outermost skin cells form this strong barrier.

    A specific gene known as FLG is responsible for encoding filaggrin, and deficits in a functional copy of this DNA segment can lead to problems with forming the skin’s protective barrier. As a result, the skin is more vulnerable to drying out and permitting the entry of pathogens.

    Individuals with a deficiency in this DNA segment are prone to developing skin issues and chronic conditions, such as dermatitis. FLG gene deficits also contribute to the development of autoimmune disorders in many people, and such genetic anomalies can be passed down from generation to generation. 

    The CARD11 Protein

    The CARD11 gene is responsible for coding instructions for making lymphocytes, which are proteins essential to the immune system. Several types of lymphocytes, such as T and B cells, identify and destroy microbes that try to infect the body.

    When foreign cells like bacteria, viruses, and fungi invade the body, the T or B cells begin to recognize them, activating the CARD11 protein. If there are mutations in this gene, the individual will be prone to various immune system conditions, such as eczema. 

    Medical scientists are still studying the effects of other genes that may predispose individuals to dermatitis and the complex interactions between the environment and genetics.

    What Are the Chances of Inheriting Eczema?

    Both FLG and CARD11 genes have an autosomal dominant inheritance pattern, which means that having even one parent with eczema is enough to cause an increased risk of developing the condition. If both parents have it, the odds are even more significant.

    Is There a Way to Remedy or Prevent Eczema?

    Currently, the prevailing method of dermatitis relief is the use of anti-inflammatory drugs. These prescription medications are quite expensive and not for everyday use. They only work to stop the itch and rashes associated with the condition.

    Another method that is now rising in popularity is through a product that relieves symptoms and prevents future flare-ups—which is SmartLotion®. Its prebiotic properties help regulate the skin’s microbiome, reducing the bacteria and fungi that cause various types of eczema. It also has anti-inflammatory effects that provide relief and are mild enough for daily use. 

    Manage Your Skin with the Best Dermatitis Relief

    Eczema can be an uncomfortable skin condition to deal with, and it occurs due to various factors. Its possible causes include the environment, unhealthy skin microbiomes, immune system issues, and genetic factors. Although it can be passed on to the next generation, relief is now more available than ever.

    If you’re looking for eczema remedies in the US, Harlan MD has you covered. SmartLotion® is currently the only product in the world that can provide relief for the condition and prevent future flare-ups from occurring. Shop now and get yours today!