Eczema is the collective name of a number of skin diseases. In general, it manifests as spots on the skin that can swell with a clear liquid. It is often confused with an allergic reaction, although it is, in fact, a skin irritation. Many people are well aware that eczema cannot be transmitted from one person to another through physical contact. However, when it comes to inheritance, doubts arise. So is eczema genetically transmitted?
Research and general observations have revealed that children born in families with a history of eczema are more likely to develop the condition. The condition might start to show early in age or in later years, up to the 20s. However, in many cases, the condition is more prominent in children. Children born to older parents have also been noted to develop the condition more often than those born to younger parents.
A person with this condition will respond to triggers by developing dry and discolored skin. For patients with lighter skin, the skin will respond by turning red. The skin will also be inflamed and may thicken and scale off. The skin will also develop sores, which will release a colorless liquid when pressed. This skin disorder ranges from mild to severe.
The root cause of eczema
Scientists have not been able to pinpoint the root cause of eczema. However, they have come up with a number of hypotheses that could explain what causes the condition.
First, eczema is believed to have developed from a disorder in the immune system, which makes the system overreact to certain environmental triggers. Having in contact with these triggers results in the skin getting irritated. Sections of the skin will develop spots.
A different cause of eczema is a disorder in the skin that makes it permeable, making the skin release moisture and let in germs, which causes irritation. The oily barrier of the skin is reduced that leads to a loss of water and having dry skin. The cells of the immune system also release chemicals that cause inflammation. That is why people with eczema are advised to use skin moisturizers.
Eczema is caused by a gene. The ratio of children that get affected with the disorder is 8 to 10 when both parents are affected, while if only one parent is concerned, then the ratio is 6 to 10. However, the precise gene that causes the disorder is still unclear.
A combination of the following factors is also responsible for eczema and they include:
- Climate changes
- Pollution in the atmosphere
- Allergies to dust mites in the house or pollens
- Diet and daily routine
A single factor or a combination of factors in individuals who are prone to eczema causes drying of the skin. In response, the immune system of the person reacts and causes inflammation. Another possible factor that triggers symptoms is scratching. It makes the matter worse and causes long-term itching.
The genes that determine eczema are still not known, as several genes can cause the condition. Studies have shown that about 20 to 30 eczema patients have an FLG gene mutation as compared to 8 to 10 mutation of FLG genes in people who do not suffer from the disorder.
The FLG gene provides instruction to make the protein called filaggrin, which is required for creating a strong outermost layer of the skin since it acts as a barrier and a natural moisturizer at the same time. The mutation of the FLG gene leads to a shortage of such protein, thereby making the skin dry leading to eczema. Mutation of any other gene is yet to be identified.
Eczema follows an autosomal dominant inheritance pattern, which is a copy of an altered FLG gene that is sufficient enough to increase a person's risk of developing the skin disorder. A person having two altered copies of the gene is at a higher risk of developing eczema than someone who only has one copy.
However, not all people who are associated with the altered gene will develop eczema, and not all people having eczema will show a variation in the gene.
The symptoms of eczema appear over a period of time and are followed by a period where the symptoms have completely vanished.
- Rashes on the cheeks and scalp
- Rashes bubble up before they leak fluid
- Itchiness that causes trouble while sleeping
- Scratching of the skin that can lead to an infection
In children above two years
- Rashes on the elbows, neck, wrist, knees, and ankles
- If not treated, the rashes become bumpy and can lighten or darken the child's skin color
- The rashes can cover most areas in the body causing enduring itchiness and dry skin that might lead to the development of an infection.
- The appearance of skin rashes depends on how one scratches his or her skin and the severity of the irritation or infection.
Although eczema can be genetically transmitted, it does not necessarily affect all members of the family. It is also important to remember that the disease cannot be passed from one person to another through physical contact. Family members can freely share all ordinary family items including toothpaste and soap. It is easy to find yourself fearful of transmitting the disease to someone else, since we have been led to think that all skin diseases are contagious.
However, such safety measures with this disease are not necessary. If you discover that you have eczema when you hit your 20s, then you probably had the condition previously. It simply had not manifested early. You did not contract it from a family member who had the condition.
What can I do if I develop eczema?
If you get eczema through inheritance, there is, unfortunately, nothing you can do to remedy the situation. At present, the condition has no cure. What you can do, instead, is to control the symptoms by using skin moisturizers.
You can also opt for medication. Usually, medication is only used in extreme cases. You also need to be aware of the triggers that your body responds to and avoid them as much as possible. For example, if your skin develops an irritation in cold weather, you should keep yourself warm as much as possible to prevent flare-ups.