The Eczema Guide: Understanding the triggers

We decided to write a post about eczema because we have noticed an increase in the number of you coming to us lately with woes of eczema outbreaks - itching, redness, blisters and very dry, scaly skin. As a result, we have done some research to put together this handy little 2-part guide. 

This post discusses the triggers of eczema, and aims to help you understand more about this condition and the factors that can induce or worsen it. Part two highlights tips on how to manage these triggers to hopefully help you through the outbreaks. 

We hope that you will find it useful, and also remember, you are not alone in this.

Image result for eczemaCredit: Glamour

WHAT CAUSES ECZEMA

National University Hospital of Singapore (NUH) estimates that 1 in 5 school-going children have some form of eczema. Although it is such a common problem, doctors and researchers do not have a clear answer for its root cause. It is understood however that people with eczema tend to have an over-reactive immune system that gets easily triggered by a substance (outside or inside the body), and responds by producing inflammation. It is this inflammation that causes the red, itchy and painful skin symptoms common to most types of eczema. 

A lot of websites group all eczema conditions under one type known as Atopic Dermatitis (AD), but according to the National Eczema Association, there are actually seven different types of eczema:

  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Neurodermatitis
  • Dyshidrotic eczema
  • Nummular eczema
  • Seborrheic dermatitis
  • Stasis dermatitis

We recommend you to read up more on each type to truly understand what you may be suffering from, and how you can better manage it. You can visit the website here

 

 

DIET

What you eat may not directly cause eczema, but it may trigger allergic reactions leading to inflammation inside and outside your body. While the commonly known foods to avoid are dairy, sugar, soy and so forth, there are also studies to show that veggies like avocadoes, tomatoes, spinach and eggplant are actually high in histamines - which can trigger inflammatory reactions within the body!  

Image result for avocados
Credit: Well+Good

 

We found a very interesting book called The Eczema Diet that can help to guide readers through dietary changes to avoid future flare ups. 

You can also refer to a list of histamine-rich food from the Healthline website. 

 

DRY SKIN

Dry skin typically lacks the retention of moisture to protect the skin from environmental stresses. Skin barrier is therefore weaker than usual, which allows allergens and bacteria to enter the skin more easily. Therefore, the only way to tackle this is to moisturise constantly, preferably with oil, thick creams or balms to replace lost moisture, and prevent it from leaving your skin surface. 

 

Image result for stress gif
Credit: Jordan's Jargon

STRESS

The body releases a hormone called cortisol when under stress. In large doses, cortisol will increase inflammation throughout the body, leading to skin inflammation and an eczema flare.

 

GENETICS

Studies have shown that you will be more likely to have eczema if there is a history of dermatitis in your family. You’re also at a higher risk if you have a history of asthma and allergic rhinitis. Both of these conditions are linked to an overactive immune reaction to environmental allergens. 

 

WEATHER CHANGES

With the recent weather change, it is no wonder that many will be experiencing a bad revival of eczema symptoms again (oh how we miss the cool sweater weather of Dec and Jan). Yes Singapore, we have once again entered our "summer" months, starting from February which is typically the warmest month with the least number of rainfall days. So if you feel your eczema symptoms crawling back fast and furious, it's all because of the erratic weather that has now approached us! 

 

SKIN IRRITANTS

Everyday products like skincare, home cleaning liquids and even the fabrics that you wear can trigger itchiness from skin.

Image result for how do hormones affect eczema
Credit: WebMD

 

In general, avoid products with chemicals or with an antibacterial/antiseptic formula as they tend to strip your skin of its protective moisture. In some cases, it is advisable to avoid any sort of fragrance altogether, even from natural essential oils, as any scent can contain allergens that can irritate the skin. There is no strict rule to the use of essential oils - it is best to ensure that it is safely diluted and never use them in its neat form (this means directly from the bottle).

 

HORMONES

During the premenstrual period, pregnancy, and at menopause, hormonal fluctuations in a woman's body will lead to an aggravation of eczema reactions - leading to increased water loss and a compromised skin barrier. While some women see an improvement of their eczema condition during pregnancy due to increased estrogen levels, there are still some 50% of women who experienced worse symptoms during the first 20 weeks of gestation. 

 

Continue onto Part Two which highlights ways on how to live with eczema, plus we have included responses from the OASIS instagram community with their top tips for managing eczema