While the exact cause of eczema is still unknown, researchers are getting closer to understanding this severe skin disorder that affects millions. It is hoped that once the exact cause of eczema skin rash is found, a cure will shortly follow. Great strides have been achieved to date and it is hoped that a cure is not far off.
In the past, eczema was believed to be caused by an allergic reaction. The nature of the disorder and the way that certain triggers would exacerbate the problem made this a more than viable conclusion. But, in recent years, researchers have found that only a small percentage of eczema flare ups are caused by allergies. They have also pinpointed the cause of eczema to what they believe to be a deficiency in the defense mechanisms of the skin. This deficiency, along with environmental factors, lead to eczema flare ups.
More exciting than this is the discovery made by experts from the University of Dundee. Researchers from this university believe that they have found the gene that causes the dry skin that predisposes people to eczema and asthma.
The gene produces a protein called filaggrin which helps the skin build up an outer, protective barrier, the same barrier that is believed to be missing from eczema sufferers. This barrier helps the skin retain moisture and keeps foreign invaders out.
Since genes come in pairs, the degree of illness depends on how many copies of the gene are defective. A single defective copy will lead to dry and flaky skin, whereas two defective genes will lead to a severe skin condition called ichthyosis vulgaris.
Researchers have also concluded that there is a link between eczema and asthma. A year-long study concluded that a child with one of these diseases has a higher risk of developing the other. Children in the study were also more prone to developing allergies.
While these discoveries are exciting and offer hope to millions of eczema sufferers, a cure is yet to be found. In the meantime, eczema patients still rely heavily on steroid creams and other medications to fight eczema flare ups. The problem with steroid creams, although they are effective, is that continued use of steroids can lead to other skin problems and complications. For this reason other steroid-free medications, called topical immunomodulators or TIMs, are being used as preventive measures between flare ups.
By using these medications and by paying close attention to one’s environment, the management of eczema is possible, but there still are cases where no treatment course seems to work. In these severe cases of eczema, the skin can become sensitive, thickened, scaly, infected, and painful. Sometimes relief from these symptoms can be nearly impossible to achieve. It is for these people, and for eczema patients that are too young to understand and take advantage of all of the medications available, that a cure for eczema is needed the most.