Who gets eczema?

Who gets eczema?

Certain people can inherit a genetic susceptibility to allergic diseases from their parents, which is known as atopy. In fact, people with a history of atopy are predisposed to conditions including atopic eczema (atopic dermatitis), asthma and allergic rhinitis.1,2 Atopic eczema is typically caused by allergic reactions towards certain substances, e.g. house dust mites or pollen.1  

One key factor in the predisposition to atopic eczema and other allergic conditions is the presence of mutations in a gene responsible for the production of  a key protein required for the formation of the flattened, dead cells that form the outer barrier of the skin.3 These mutations result in a deficiency of the protein, leading to breakdown of the barrier, and as a result, enhanced exposure to allergens, reduced hydration and inflammation of the outer layer of the skin (the epidermis).3 Changes in genes coding for certain substances and affecting key molecules within the immune system may also predispose to atopic eczema.4

Other types of eczema may have different causes. Click to find out about the different types of eczema.


  1. Novak N, Bieber T. Allergic and non allergic forms of atopic disease. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2013;112:252-62
  2. Spergel JM. From atopic dermatitis to asthma: the atopic march. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2010;105:99-106
  3. Irvine AD, McLean I, Leung DYM. Filaggrin mutations associated with skin and allergic diseases. N Engl J Med 2011;365:1315-27.
  4. Homey B, Steinhoff M, Ruzicka T, Leung DYM. Cytokines and chemokines orchestrate atopic skin inflammation. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2006;118:178-89.

UK/GEN/16/0051 Date of preparation: October 2016