There are numerous surprising things that can provoke eczema breakouts, and sometimes it has nothing to do with how you are treating your skin from the outside. Knowing these less obvious triggers can help you manage your eczema more comprehensively.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition that makes your skin itchy, red, and rough. The hereditary disorder occurs when the body does not make enough of a protein that helps with keeping the skin moisturized.
If you suffer from eczema, you’re one of many: Ten percent of people in the United States have eczema. Although taking care of your outer layer topically is especially important when you have this skin condition, there are other things to focus on as well that surprisingly can have an impact on your flare-ups. Here are six things that an eczema outbreak might be informing you about the state of your health.
Your skin is too dry
When your skin gets too dry, it can become flaky, rough, scaly or tight, which can all lead to an eczema breakout. Dry skin can be the result of dehydration, meaning it’s time to get more water in your body ASAP.
You’re exposing your body to irritants
There are many products and natural substances that can make your skin burn, itch, dry or turn red. These could be used directly on your body or around your home—think: hand and dish soap, laundry detergent, perfume, shampoo, bubble bath and body wash, or cleaning supplies and disinfectants. Even some natural liquids, like the juice from fresh fruit, vegetables or meats, can irritate the skin.
You’re feeling stressed out
Emotional stress is a known eczema-trigger, but scientists are still uncovering the exact link. When we stress, the body goes into fight-or-flight mode and responds by increasing the production of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. But when the body produces too much cortisol, it can suppress the immune system and cause inflammation in the skin, which can cause reactions in people with eczema.
You have an underlying infection
If your eczema is acting up, there’s a chance that you’ve become infected with bacteria or viruses that live in your environment. Staphylococcus aureus (“staph”), molluscum virus, herpes virus (fever blisters and cold sores), and certain kinds of fungi (ringworm or athlete’s foot) are common triggers. Though eczema will not usually signal a larger issue, it’s always best “to play it safe” and see your doctor if your condition is not improving.
You have an allergy
Your surrounding environment can cause allergic reactions that trigger eczema flare-ups. Some of the most common are seasonal pollen, dust mites, cats and dogs, mold and dandruff. Sometimes, it could be something in your diet that is to blame. Ingesting foods that you have allergies or intolerances to can cause eczema outbreaks. It’s important to know the allergens that could cause a flare-up so that you can help keep your symptoms under control.
Your hormone levels are changing
When the levels of certain hormones in your body increase or decrease, some people with eczema (especially women) may experience flare-ups. So if you’re experiencing an outbreak, and you cannot figure out why, it’s possible that your invisible hormones are in flux—which in turn, might signal something else about the body, like menstruation, ovulation, pregnancy, or menopause.