What It Is Part 3: The Triggers

Hello everyone, I hope the 2018 year is going well and the month of February was more than great. In this month’s blog we will be continuing the discussion on what eczema is, with this blog going into the specifics of triggers and causes for eczema. As before I will overlap previously discussed topics with the idea that it helps jog memory, excel learning, and push us to new understandings.

Being that it is the colder months of the year, my skin feels a bit different then when it’s warmer. I don’t know about you guys but my skin is a bit more dry then usual and I am being more conscious of the need for lotion and moisturizer. I know that when it is summer, and I am out camping or in the woods, I have to be mindful of the three leafed plant with wonderful colors of green because its shine from oils. Poison oak makes my skin break out in a wicked and miserable rash. I recently went to Disneyland and when eating lunch, felt a bug crawling on my ear, only to flick it off and be stung by a bee. My hand was swollen for three days after.

In each one of these examples, the outside environment, a ‘trigger’, is causing the body to have a response. With each response, the body has to mount a defense, which costs energy and resources, but is a natural part of being an organism in this world. Having immune responses to the chemicals and substances around us is very normal. Where those with eczema have problems is this response is somehow not complete, lacking in some ways, overactive, or has a hard time shutting down. The most frustrating thing can be the fact that there really isn’t much clarity out there on why that is.

Let’s start with what is known. There are two major pieces to the interaction of an outside substance and the human skin which leads to an eczema break out. First there is the substance or the foreign body and how the body reacts to it. What makes one person have a reaction may not make another person. There are those of us that are severely allergic to poison oak and there are those of us with natural immunities to it. There are those of us who will die if an untreated bee sting occurs and those who only feel the sting and are fine afterwards. How the body interprets and responds to a foreign substance is a major part of this.

There is also the process itself, the way in which the body mounts a response. This includes what pathways chemically it uses to respond to a substance and then how it turns off these pathways. Some people have genetic disorders and their immune response never turns on or responds at all. Others have immune responses that never turn off and there body is stuck in a cycle of never ending repair. Both of these ideas can be involved in an eczema breakout, or one or the other, each to varying degrees.

Let me be clear before I explain any further. There is a general consensus and much theory and assumption on what is going on with the actual disease process of eczema. The fact is however, the experts and those with the most knowledge in the medical field about this can’t tell you exactly what is happening. They don’t know. We know there are correlations. We know there are some things that cause eczema outbreaks more than others, but a clear explanation from start to finish, on exactly what is wrong with those with eczema versus those without it cannot be determined.

The more I read or look for research about these topics the more I find a lack of certainty. There is much about the overall process but very small amounts in regards to specific detail. This to me is a very important thing to realize because it means that if clear answers are what are sought, they may not be there. The steps needed to prepare for an individual’s eczema treatment and prevention need to be just that, individual. Looking for others for answers may not work. What works for me may not work for you and the only way to determine what works for you is to be proactive and find out.

With all of this in mind, when it comes to triggers, each individual should be aware of which ones apply to them. To do this it is pertinent to know two different approaches to the causes of eczema. First, in general, each of us will have better results with eczema breakouts if we use higher quality products. However, more specifically, one person may have no problem with using any type of lotion but gets really irritated with cheap shaving cream.

It might be a good idea to spend extra money on nice shaving cream. The problem here being that the immune system that is supposed to respond to foreign bodies overreacts, assuming some substances are just as bad as others. This may not be the case, the lotion or shaving cream may not be terrible for your immediate health, but that is not how your body reacts.

The idea with all of this is those with eczema have immune systems that may be over reactive in this regard. Some people can use common detergent for their clothes and have no problem while those with eczema use the same type and end up itchy and uncomfortable. Their bodies are interpreting the different chemical make ups of the detergent as foreign bodies and initiating an immune response. Some of the more expensive detergents have higher dollar amounts because they are composed of chemicals believed to be in harmony with even those with eczema.

The second concept in regards to triggers is about the processes for your body’s immune system. One of the believed culprits to eczema breakouts is the body’s inability to turn off the immune response to a foreign body. This can be for two reasons. The body may be having a hard time maintaining an intact integument and physical barrier to keep foreign bodies out. The body might also be having a hard time with process management, where the process starts but doesn’t finish, or lacks too much or too little of one enzyme to control its progression.

Like mentioned in previous blogs, the cement holding the bricks of the skin together is very important. There is thought that some have bodies who don’t produce enough cement, allowing pathogens and foreign bodies in, so there is a physical deficiency. There is also an understanding that some substances remove this cement, hence the need to be aware of what substances are contacting your skin. Either through outside forces or internal deficiencies, the body has a hard time maintaining its physical barrier.

In addition, the processes responsible for the managing and the removal of foreign bodies are very complicated. They involve thousands of different little molecules and aren’t even close to being completely understood. We know that things like inflammation are good to a degree because they allow the movement of lymphocytes to the site of injury. But what if the inflammation never turns off or if the itchy feeling is so strong the skin begins to bleed from all the irritation. Sometimes the body is its own sabotage. 

It is thought that with eczema, our bodies are mounting immune responses, over things that may not be all that bad, and then is having trouble turning off. Essentially there is no one reason or trigger to someone’s eczema. There are several factors working in conjunction which is why the correct way to treat it involves proactive thought. I hope the material of the blogs is helping to explain just that. Once again please reach out to us about anything you want to ask, if you want a free shirt or have any concerns.

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