While many people think of eczema as an issue that mainly affects children, the skin condition may also manifest later in life. The triggers and causes of eczema in adults may vary from person to person. If you suffer from dry, itchy skin and red rashes on your body, then chances are you have a form of eczema known as atopic dermatitis (AD). When AD develops after your 18th birthday, it is known as adult-onset atopic dermatitis. Those in their 50s are most likely to be affected. However, it is possible for adults of all ages to develop eczema.

The Difference Between Adult and Pediatric Eczema

Eczema is a skin condition that may affect people of all ages, but the symptoms and causes of adult eczema can differ significantly from those in children. While eczema can occur at any age, the causes of eczema in adults tend to be more persistent and difficult to control. This may be because the skin becomes less elastic and less able to recover from damage over time.

In addition, adult eczema is more likely to be triggered by external factors such as stress, diet, and environmental allergens. In contrast, pediatric eczema is typically associated with genetics and family history. Furthermore, adult eczema is more likely to occur in specific areas of the body, such as:

  • The back of the knee
  • Crooks of the elbow
  • The face
  • The back of the neck
  • Around the eyes

Understanding these differences is crucial in developing effective treatment and management strategies for both adult and child eczema. Therefore, it is essential to recognize the triggers and causes of eczema in adults and take steps to reduce or prevent flare-ups. If you notice any changes to your skin, it is imperative to contact a dermatologist for advice and treatment.

6 Common Triggers and Causes of Eczema in Adults

The following eczema triggers are especially common causes of eczema in adults. If you are prone to atopic dermatitis or any other type of eczema, it is vital to be aware of these causes and take steps to reduce your exposure. For instance, avoiding certain lifestyle choices or environmental triggers can make a big difference in managing your eczema. Common triggers and causes of eczema in adults include:

1. Rough Wool Fabrics

Rough wool fabrics may trigger adult eczema due to the scratchy texture of the fibers. When these fibers come into contact with sensitive skin, they may cause irritation and inflammation, leading to eczema outbreaks. This is especially true for those with a history of skin sensitivity or allergies, as well as those with pre-existing eczema. While trying to avoid eczema outbreaks caused by rough wool fabrics, it is best to avoid these fabrics altogether. Wear soft and breathable fabrics, such as cotton or silk, instead.

2. Heat and Sweat

Heat and sweat can trigger eczema in adults due to the skin’s inability to retain moisture. In addition, when the skin is exposed to high temperatures and sweat, it causes dehydration, making it more prone to cracking and irritation. This causes further inflammation and may lead to an eczema outbreak. To avoid this, try to stay cool and keep your skin moisturized.

3. Dust Mites and Pet Dander

Dust mites are tiny bugs that live in household dust and feed on skin cells that we shed every day. As a result, they can trigger eczema outbreaks by causing an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. Pet dander, on the other hand, is made up of tiny particles of skin, hair, and saliva that are shed by pets and can also cause an allergic reaction in those with eczema.

To minimize the impact of dust mites and pet dander on adult eczema, you should take steps to reduce exposure to these allergens. This can include vacuuming regularly to remove dust mites and their droppings, using allergen-proof covers on bedding and furniture, and bathing pets regularly to reduce dander. Additionally, keeping pets out of the bedroom and using air purifiers with HEPA filters can help to minimize the amount of pet dander and other allergens in the air.

4. Stress

Stress is a known trigger for adult eczema outbreaks. When we are under stress, our bodies release cortisol, a hormone that can weaken the skin’s natural barrier and make it more susceptible to irritation and inflammation. This, in turn, may trigger eczema outbreaks and make existing symptoms worse.

Managing stress is an integral part of managing adult eczema. This can include practicing stress-reducing activities like yoga, meditation, and exercise, as well as finding ways to reduce stress in your daily life, such as delegating tasks or prioritizing self-care.

5. Cold and Dry Air

When exposed to dry air, the skin can become dehydrated and lose its natural moisture barrier, making it more susceptible to irritation and inflammation. Moreover, cold air can cause blood vessels to constrict, reducing blood flow to the skin and making it more difficult for the skin to heal. It is critical to minimize the effects of cold and dry air on adult eczema. This may include:

  • Using a humidifier
  • Wearing gloves and other protective clothing
  • Using a good quality, fragrance-free moisturizer  

Additionally, avoiding hot showers and baths, which can strip the skin of its natural oils, and using a gentle, fragrance-free soap can help to reduce the risk of eczema outbreaks. Taking these precautions may reduce the impact of cold and dry air on your skin and improve your overall health and well-being.

6. Cleaning Products

Cleaning products, including detergents, soaps, and other household cleaners, may trigger an eczema outbreak. These products often contain harsh chemicals that can irritate the skin, strip it of its natural oils, and cause an inflammatory response. Therefore, it is crucial to choose products that are gentle and free of harsh chemicals. This may minimize the effects of cleaning products on adult eczema. 

This can include using fragrance-free, hypoallergenic products and avoiding products that contain fragrances, dyes, and other irritants. Furthermore, wearing gloves when cleaning and rinsing your skin thoroughly after using cleaning products can help to reduce the risk of eczema outbreaks.

Soothe Your Eczema Symptoms with Olympian Clinical Research

At Olympian Clinical Research (OCR), we believe that everyone deserves relief from the frustration and discomfort of eczema. That’s why we are dedicated to conducting clinical research trials to help advance the science of eczema treatment and management. If you’re an adult struggling with eczema, we invite you to join us in our mission to find a cure.

Participating in a clinical research trial at OCR will give you the opportunity to receive access to cutting-edge treatments, as well as close monitoring and support from our expert team of medical professionals. Most of all, you’ll contribute to developing better treatments and management strategies for all those affected by this skin condition. Contact OCR today to learn more about how you can get involved in one of our clinical research trials and start your journey to better health.