Eczema is a common, long-term skin condition which can affect both adults and children. The symptoms of eczema can begin to appear during early childhood and typically include dry, sore, cracked and itchy skin. Eczema can also affect adolescents and adults who didn’t have eczema as children.
If you suffer from eczema, you might be wondering if it’s genetic and if you could pass it down to your children.
To help you understand your eczema better, we’ll be taking a closer look at eczema and its causes, as well as available eczema treatment and prevention.
What triggers eczema?
While the exact cause of eczema is unknown, it’s thought to be caused by a combination of things.
Eczema flare-ups — when symptoms such as itchiness and inflammation become severe — can be caused by various triggers. These triggers can include:
- Immune system problems
- Irritants in detergents, soaps, shampoo, bubble bath and washing-up liquid
- Cold, dry or humid weather
- Pet fur and other allergens like pollen or house dust mites
- Food allergies (like peanuts)
- Emotional stress
- Hormonal changes
These triggers can vary from person to person, and it can be a combination of them or just one that sets your eczema off.
If you’ve been diagnosed with eczema, a dermatologist can work with you to identify your triggers and help you to avoid them.
Is eczema genetic?
You can be born with an increased likelihood of developing eczema because of the genes you inherit from your parents. This doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed to develop eczema, but there’s an increased chance that you could.
There’s strong scientific evidence showing the existence of a genetic predisposition to eczema. Research shows that eczema has a strong genetic link, which means it can be passed down in families.
Can eczema be hereditary?
While genetics are a factor in almost all health conditions, some conditions are almost entirely caused by genetic changes — these are known as hereditary diseases or disorders.
Hereditary diseases can be carried from one generation to the next.
Research has shown that children with one or both parents who have atopic eczema are more likely to develop it themselves. Likewise, children who have siblings with eczema are more likely to develop the condition.
Is eczema contagious?
Eczema is a common condition, but it isn’t contagious at all — the condition can’t be passed to someone else if you have it, and you can’t catch it.
While eczema is not contagious, it can make your skin vulnerable to other contagious infections. Broken skin (caused by scratching and cracking from dryness) can allow viruses and bacteria to get in, which can lead to secondary infections.
If you have eczema, it’s important to protect areas of cracked or broken skin to reduce your risk of infection.
If you do notice that your skin is broken, then it’s best to speak to your doctor or dermatologist so they can ensure you don’t have an infection or prescribe you antibiotics if you do.
How can eczema be prevented?
While there is no cure for eczema and it can’t be completely prevented, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of flare-ups and ease symptoms. These include:
- Avoiding your triggers — which could be anything from laundry detergents to soaps and certain fabrics
- Having a daily moisturising routine
- Wearing gloves in cold weather to protect your skin
- Avoiding long, hot showers or baths that might dry out your skin
- Stress management — reducing your stress levels through regular exercise, yoga and meditation may also help
- Establishing a healthy sleep routine (a lack of sleep can increase inflammation)
Using natural remedies such as aloe vera, tea tree oil or coconut oil which have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties can also help to ease inflammation and soothe your skin. .
Can eczema go away without treatment?
Eczema won’t go away on its own. However, with the right care, you can live well with eczema.
For the best eczema treatment, visit the London Medical Private Dermatology Clinic. Our expert dermatologists will work with you to assess your condition and create a personalised skincare programme to treat symptoms and prevent flare-ups in the future.
Your personalised skincare management plan may involve:
- Avoiding triggers – we can help you to develop strategies for reducing contact with your eczema triggers
- Emollients – by using skin-friendly moisturisers, you can help to maintain the natural protective layer on the surface of your skin, reducing the risk of infection and irritation
- Soap substitutes – we can advise on alternatives to soaps containing chemicals and fragrances that may strip your skin of natural oils
- Topical steroids – we have a wealth of experience in prescribing topical steroids that can alleviate symptoms such as creams, ointments, plasters and tapes
- Topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs) – this new evidence-based treatment is an effective alternative to steroids which can reduce inflammation in the skin’s upper layers and treat flare-ups