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Is eczema caused by allergies?

Atopic dermatitis or eczema is a condition where there is inflammation and irritation of the skin. Due to this, skin can become itchy, dry and red. Eczema can affect 2-5% of the population with children being affected more than adults. In fact it is the single most common skin condition in children less than 11 years of age. Atopic dermatitis usually starts in early childhood and can range from mild to severe. A large percentage of children with severe eczema will later develop asthma or environmental allergies.

The exact cause of atopic dermatitis (eczema) is unknown. The current thinking is that eczema is caused by a combination of factors that include: genetics, abnormal function of the immune system, environment (with exposure to allergens and irritants), and defects in the skin barrier that allow moisture out and germs in. It is also important to find the triggers that make your eczema worse. A trigger is not something that causes eczema, but it can cause it to flare. Common triggers can include irritants in the environment such as soaps and cleansers, conditions that cause the skin to dry out, bacterial infections of the skin and allergies to environmental mold, pollen, dust mites and pet dander. Less than 1 in 10 children with atopic dermatitis have a food allergy. In general, it is young children less than 5 with severe eczema who may have a food sensitivity as a trigger factor.

Although there is no cure for atopic dermatitis, most people can effectively manage their disease with medical treatment and by avoiding irritants. An allergist can help you manage your atopic dermatitis and determine triggers including possible environmental and food allergies.

Allergy & Asthma Specialists, PA