Eczema is a skin condition that occurs when the skin is exposed to some type of irritant, causing localized swelling, redness and itching. Unfortunately, there are truly limitless numbers of irritants that can cause an eczema outbreak to occur, and the causes are not always so easily defined. While there are several differently types of eczema, atopic dermatitis appears to be the most common. Let's take a look at some of the triggers of an eczema outbreak and how eczema can be diagnosed.

Triggers of Outbreak

This is where determining a definitive cause for eczema gets a little tricky. For the most part, many eczema patients have learned that they simply have to be very conscious of physical objects and environmental objects that they come into contact with, as well as emotional states in order to determine what will unleash an outbreak. Allergies, including the following, are the most common triggers for eczema outbreaks:

  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Scented/branded soaps and detergents
  • Perfume
  • Food allergies
  • Clothing materials
  • Emotional stress

As you can see, there are a variety of irritants in the environment that can cause an outbreak of eczema to occur. What many patients tend to find absolutely shocking is that emotional stress can also cause a flare of eczema. Emotional stress causes an overdrive of hormones within the body. When this happens to a person with eczema, the oil secretions that are released to the skin tend to increase, causing the skin to get patchy, red and irritated.

Diagnosing Eczema

The problem with eczema is that there is no clean-cut method of diagnosis available. In order to make a definitive diagnosis of eczema, a physician will rely on a full account from the patient about her current lifestyle, her eating habits, and her exposure to allergens and irritants. Many times a physician will prefer to do a biopsy of the affected area to rule out any other diseases. 

Additionally, a physician will look at the family history of a patient to determine if there is any predisposition to allergies or hay fever. While it is not proven, it is widely thought by the medical community that families with a history of allergies and hay fever have a predisposition to developing eczema.

A physician will also take note of where the outbreaks are occurring on the body. The most prevalent cases of eczema seem to appear on the back of the elbows, the back of the knees, the stomach and the side of the neck, so paying attention to location can also provide some evidence when making a diagnosis.

Another method of diagnosis for eczema is the patch test. This is done by scraping a small area of the irritated skin and testing it against specific allergens. When one of the tests comes back as positive, the type of eczema and the triggering allergen can be identified. The most significant problem with the patch test is that it is theoretically impossible to test for every single allergen in existence, which means that the physician will have to make an educated guess in determining which allergen to test for.